Authors: Kate Allenton
crossed the yard and watched Briggs’ smile turn to a frown. Holding his hands up with palms out, Ridge announced, “I come in peace. Don’t shoot me.”
Jamie lightly touched Briggs
’ arm. “It’s okay.” She stepped in front of the tire swing. “If he tries anything, I’ll kick his ass.”
Ridge admired her determination but he refused to show any signs of retreat
. “I apologized already. Besides, I wouldn’t have put Sarah in danger. I was just worried. Can’t we get over it already?”
, the unit’s visionary, had seen the demise of everyone in the unit, and he’d had the bad fortune of thinking Jamie’s little sister could possibly use her power in the fight and save them all. Granted she was still a child, but Ridge wasn’t thinking clearly, and now it seemed he’d never be able to live it down.
bed off the swing and slid her hand into Briggs’. “He was worried about his brother, just like you were about me.” Sarah leaned over to look at her big sister. “You would have done the same thing for me. You can’t blame him.” She climbed back on the swing and glanced over her shoulder. “I don’t.”
gestured to the innocent child, silently thanking her for not holding a grudge. “See, she knows I wouldn’t hurt her.”
Jamie crossed her arms over her chest. “Why are you here? I’m on vacation.”
Ridge cleared his throat. “I’m actually here to speak with Briggs about one of his old colleagues who’s showed up in town.”
Briggs raised a brow
as a muscle in his arms twitched. If Ridge had to guess, Briggs wasn’t aware anyone was coming into town either.
placed a kiss on Jamie’s lips. “I’ll be right back.” He nodded toward the house. “Walk with me.”
Briggs led Ridge onto the porch
, grabbed two beers from the cooler, and motioned for him to sit. “Where did you see him?”
Deciding it was in Gracie’s best
interests; Ridge opted with the truth and cleared his throat. “He was at Gracie’s house.”
Briggs leaned back in his chair on two legs. “What was he doing there
? Come to think about it, what the hell were
It was a valid question and one Ridge kept asking himself.
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “He’s here as her date to some fundraiser.”
“Is it important why I was there? Let’s just say I needed to talk to her.”
“Huh.” Briggs took a long swig of his beer.
“What do you know about him?” Ridge asked as he sat back.
“More than you.”
Briggs let his chair fall forward. “You don’t need to poke your nose into his past. If he’s here, it’s for a reason and he’s a good guy.”
Ridge let those words sink in. “What’s the reason?”
Briggs shrugged. “Maybe Gracie really did just need a date.”
He now had more questions than he’d started with. What was so important she couldn’t have asked him or his brother
to take her to the fundraiser? Something wasn’t right, and he had a feeling the answers were just out of his reach. “For argument’s sake, let’s say she was in trouble. Would he be able to protect her? Does he have any special gifts like the Bennetts?”
Brigg raised his brow. “I’ve worked with Jacobs for over twenty years. I have full confidence in his ability
to watch her back.”
Ridge drained the remainder of his beer. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Briggs put his bottle on the table and stood. “Nope, I sure didn’t.” He descended the steps toward Jamie and stopped before turning around again. “His story isn’t mine to tell. Why don’t you just ask him?”
Ridge nodded and twisted the keys on his finger. “Thanks for your help.”
Briggs paused in mid-step and turned back once more. “I’m not sure what’s going on between you and Gracie. But take my advice; honesty is everything in any type of relationship. If you want her to trust you, you need to give her a reason.”
Ridge nodded as he walked back to
the SUV, holding up his keys. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He slid behind the wheel and gripped it tight as he drove back to the compound. If he’d just come clean with her to begin with, he might not be in this situation. Maybe she would have trusted him to take her to the benefit. He shook his head from the thought. He knew better. She would have kicked him out of her house and out of her life if she knew the real reason he was there and still might if she ever found out.
Ridge returned to the compound in search of his twin. It seem
ed they had their own work to do before the party. Finding out what exactly Gracie had planned was going to be hard enough without the added pressure of another guy taking her to the damn thing. He found Brody in the training room. This time there was no blonde around flirting with him. A stool in the middle of the room floated in thin air through telekinesis, one of Brody’s most powerful gifts that Ridge had gotten used to years ago.
Ridge let the door close behind him as Brody lifted a brow but kept his concentration on the stool.
“Anything new with your princess?”
s if Brody could read his mind, Ridge watched as his twin maneuvered the chair over to the other clusters before lowering it to sit on. “What’s going on now?”
Ridge let his shoulders fall as he approached the stools and plopped down. “She said yes she’d go out on a date with me.”
Brody’s chuckled and patted him on the back. “That’s great. That’s what you wanted, right?”
Ridge placed his elbows on his knees before meeting his brother’s gaze. “She has a date tonight with Jacobs, one of Briggs’ old partners from Southall.”
crossed his arms over his chest. “What the hell is he doing here? They aren’t dating, are they?”
Ridge lifted his palms and knew he couldn’t hide the uncertainty that was eating away at his gut
. “From what she told me, he’s just here to take her to a benefit…as a friend.”
plopped down on one of the stools. “And you believed her?”
Ridge’s mind twisted the pieces of information she’d planted in this head
as he stood. “I have no reason not to.”
devious smile crossed Brody’s lips. He’d seen the look on his twin before, and more times than not, it meant trouble. Brody stood and patted Ridge on the back. “Sounds like it’s time for surveillance.”
“I don’t want to spy on her.”
Brody pulled the door open. “Sorry, dude, it’s your job, or did you forget the general ordered it? So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to treat this like any mission. Get a few key people involved, tail them, and monitor the situation. If she needs rescuing, you can charge in and sweep her off her feet like a hero.”
The implications of the idea made Ridge pause in the hall
way. “I don’t know about this, Brody.”
The grin on Brody’s face grew bigger. “I do, trust me. Just leave it to me and I’ll handle everything.”
After a sound sleep, Brody rose early
, readying himself to go see Gracie. Granted, she was younger than him and Ridge. It was still no wonder that she and Brody had come to be good friends. They both acted the same age, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. After a quick stop in the intel room the general approved the plans for their recon. Now all he had to do was figure out where the hell she was going.
Brody drove the thirty minutes outside of town on
a trip he hadn’t taken in months. He’d been to Gracie’s house before but never for such a devious reason. They’d hung out a lot after she moved back into town after graduating college. Whether it was vegging out watching movies or hitting the local bars, Gracie was his companion of choice; never clingy, just plain fun. Gracie was sitting on her porch with two women Brody had never seen before. He put the SUV in park and got out.
frowned and watched as he approached. The brunette and the blonde with her were already smiling; they just widened their smiles. The shorter and hotter of the two stood and crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re already back for more?”
Brody paused. “Depends on what you
’re dishing, beautiful.”
Gracie chuckled and stood next to her friend. “Relax
, Tara; this is Brody, Ridge’s twin.”
Tara’s eyes widened a
s she turned to Gracie. “There’re two of them? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Brody stepped up onto the porch. “Afraid not
, little darling, but I’m the better looking one, and a lot more fun. If you care to take me for a spin.”
The blush rose quickly to Tara’s cheeks as she lowered her lashes. This was going to be a piece of cake. If he could get Gracie’s friends on his side, it all but assured
getting the answers he wanted.
Gracie raised her brow. “What gives, Brody?
First your brother and now you. Is there something you two aren’t telling me?”
his arms around her shoulder, he pulled her into his embrace before releasing her. “Let’s take a walk.”
Tara inhaled sharply
, and out of the corner of his eye, he watched as a long line of tiny square packets appeared in her hands. Her face brightened the shade of a tomato as she shoved the condom wrappers behind her back. Cathy glanced behind Tara’s back and started laughing. Tara’s gaze was eating him up. He held back his chuckle as he let his own gaze run down her curvaceous body. He wiggled his eyebrows and winked before Gracie pulled him from the porch as if she was in a hurry. “Great idea.” She glanced back over her shoulder; her eyes widened at her friends as she spoke. “We’ll be right back.”
“What’s with your friends?”
The fine lines around Gracie’s eyes creased as she smiled. “Inside joke.” She lead him toward the tree line and away from the porch, “Okay, so start talking.”
Brody threw his arm around her shoulder. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. You’re looking good
, short stuff.”
Hrrumph. Compliments aren’t going to work. So just spit it out and tell me why you’re here.”
“Where have you been hiding your friends?”
He kept walking and using his playful charm; the same charm he’d practiced on her over the years. He had to admit, she was the only single woman in a two hundred mile radius who was off limits and not for the reasons the General or his brother might think. Their friendship had grown over the years into something solid and concrete. They could count on each other even in a jam.
Gracie elbowed him in the stomach. “This isn’t about them either.
Focus, Brody. Why. Are. You. Here?”
She was one tough cookie,
definitely the general’s kid. Sweet words and compliments and trying to throw her off track weren’t going to work. “Ridge is worried about you.”
as if digesting his assessment. “Why?” She came to an abrupt halt and crossed her arms over her chest. “Did my father put you up to this?”
away her concerns, he linked her arm through his and pulled her to keep walking. “If you haven’t figured out yet that Ridge likes you, then we have bigger problems than I thought.” He glanced down at her. “He’s a little rusty with his skills when it comes to the ladies.”
“Unlike you, I see.”
Brody squeezed her shoulder tighter. “Can’t help it; it’s a gift.”
Gracie leaned into his shoulder. “Someday, some
woman, somewhere is going to put you in your place, Mr. Connors, and I can’t wait for the day I get to see you grovel.”
ed in and kissed her head. “Don’t bet money on it, shortcake. Now let’s talk about Jacobs.”
Gracie’s arm tightened around his
own . Yeah, he was getting somewhere now. “What is he doing here?”
She cleared her throat. “He’s my date to a fundraiser tonight
at the country club. Nothing more, just a friend.”
She was withholding information. He could tell by the hitch in her voice. “Why didn’t you ask me or Ridge? You didn’t have to call some guy from out of town to take you. What aren’t you telling me
, Gracie Lou?” He pulled her to a stop. “I want to help you, but you’re not giving me anything to go on.”
She shook her head. “It’s better for everyone involved if you don’t know
, at least not yet.”
Brody took her hand in his. “We’re friends
, Gracie. You can tell me anything, and I’ll never judge you. I’ll help you any way I can.”
Her gaze was riveted to their joined hands. She inhaled and let out a deep breath. “You’re right. I should tell at least one person from the unit what’s going on
, just in case.”
“In case what, Gracie?” He was trying hard to hold
back the disapproval from his voice, now getting worried about what she might be involved in.
“In case something goes wrong.” She pulled her hand from his grasp and hugged her midsection. “Ethan is taking me to a medical fundraiser. When I worked for Floyd
, he had me invite some big wigs, and they are going to attend. I’m not sure what Floyd had in common with them, but I intend to find out.”
turned, retracing her steps back to the house. “Ethan is my backup.”
stopped and let her words sink in before he turned around and caught up to her. “Sunshine, Jacobs can’t protect you like we can; maybe it would be a better idea to let Ridge take you instead.”
She shook her head. “They might recognize him
, and I can’t chance it. I’m trying to get my foot back in the door, and if I show up with anyone from the base, my cover gets blown, and then I’ll never get close again.”
She stopped and turned toward him. “Don’t you want this to be over? I have the opportunity to find out the answers we all want, and I plan to take it.”
He threw his arm around her shoulder again and started walking back to the house with her. “You do know you’re playing with fire and you might get burned? This is too dangerous, Gracie. You can’t protect yourself.”
She nudged him with her shoulder. “It’s a good thing I know what I’m doing, huh
Brody walked back to her house in silence
, his mind racing with what she’d told him. The general was right. His daughter needed babysitting before she got herself hurt or, worse, killed. He decided right then and there Gracie was in way over her head and stepping in was the only option. He knew Gracie like the back of his hand. They’d gotten into their fair share of trouble together, although one night in jail with dropped charges, didn’t make her a convict. She was still a wild child, didn’t take too well to authority, and would likely tell him to kiss her ass if he even thought about telling her she couldn’t go through with it. So he kept his mouth shut. Thankfully, she’d played right into his hands, and now they knew what she was up to and could still keep an eye on her.