There was a gentle tapping at the door.
“Taylor?” It was Jason. “You all right, love? Lost you for a bit. Greg said you were here last he saw you.”
“Bathroom break,” she said. “The coffee really went through me.” She did a pitiful job of trying to hide the warble in her voice.
“We’re ordering pizza. The lads are sending a flunky to pick it up.”
She opened to door, hoping she didn’t look as horrible as she felt. “Super. I’m starved.”
“What do you like on pizza? We’re buying out the store.” He grinned, but his eyes held worry.
“Anything but anchovies and jalapenos.”
“Woman after my own heart. I’m fond of ham and pineapple myself.”
“Me too.” She sniffled, rubbing her nose.
“You okay?” He stopped her, putting his hands gently on her shoulders. “You look miserable.”
Taylor swallowed, sniffling and rubbing her nose again. She nodded, swallowing another lump in her throat.
“Hey.” He tipped her chin up, gazing in her bottomless blue eyes. “I know misery when I see it. Can I help? I hate to see a woman as amazing as you brought to tears. What kind of host would I be if I let it continue?”
Jason’s smile lit a fire in Taylor’s belly that she couldn’t quench. His eyes were wide, caring. His hands were soft, gentle, warm, soothing. She wanted him to kiss her, even parted her lips with the intention of letting him. She leaned toward him…..
“There you are!” Graves bellowed. “Where you been, Tay? Jason, we got a list, but we need money, bro.”
“I’ll nip in the library and get it. Got a safe in there. Closest one, won’t take a moment.”
“A safe? They went over this place with a fine tooth after you were nabbed. No one found a thing.”
Jason winked, tapping the side of his nose. “After what you’ve seen, you expect anyone to find my stash?” Chuckling, he turned away.
He walked briskly down the hall past the bathroom, turned right and shut the door behind him with a snap. Leaning against it, he fought to catch his breath. Had what he thought almost happened really happened? Had he been inches from kissing Agent Driscole?
“Business,” he reminded himself. “Professionals, both of us. God, she’s pretty! And the boys are hungry.” He slammed his fist into his thigh trying to give himself enough pain to tame the raging boner he sported.
Having suddenly forgotten his combination, he opened the safe by feel. Grabbing a stack of bills, he counted out a respectable amount of cash for the pizza. Forcing himself to take deep breaths, he took out more for a grocery store run. Stuffing the money in his pocket, he put the rest back in the safe.
Graves waited for him in the hall. Taylor Driscole was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t ask.
“Taylor’s on the phone,” Graves said.
Jason nodded, handing them the pizza money.
Graves looked like he wanted to say something, but Jason shut himself off once more. Hands shoved in his pockets, head lowered, he headed to the kitchen. Graves followed, adjusting his suit coat.
There were at least a dozen people in the kitchen, all of them arguing about pizza toppings. Kisler was trying to make a list, protesting some of the choices.
“If y’all don’t behave,” he said loudly. “I’m getting what I want and fuck y’all.”
Jason laughed at the groans.
“Ham and pineapple,” he said, giving Taylor’s order. “No anchovies or jalapenos.”
“Got it. Okay, Tim, you with me?”
“Nope, sending Moses and Bradford. We’re team one, we don’t leave the primary.”
“Can I trust you two to get this right?” Kisler asked the younger men.
“Yes, sir,” one of them answered, saluting.
“Jesus, don’t salute me over pizza, Moses.”
“Whatever. No salutes at all. God, I can tell you’re fresh out of school. Don’t get careless,” he cautioned. “Do not get cocky. Don’t make mistakes. We do not want the bad guys to find the primary. You use everything they taught you. Check for a tail.” He pointed to one. “Keep your eyes on the road. Do I need to send someone with you?”
“No, sir. We can handle this,” the one who wasn’t Bradford answered.
“Good. You go in and pay. Driver stays with the car. Cash?”
Graves handed over the money.
“Bring a receipt and change, got it?”
There was the flicker of movement as if they wanted to salute. Kisler frowned, pointing at the door.
“I’ll call this in. It will be in the name of Sam Washington. Got that?”
“Go, it should be ready by the time you get there.”
© Dellani Oakes