While Georgia was in the ladies’ room
messing with her hair and after he had ordered margaritas, Harry put
in a call to
the private line at the SG-5 ops center belonging to Kelly John Beach.
If K.J. was in the field, the call would be routed to the
main Smithson line. If he was simply out of the office, it would forward
to his cell.
K.J. picked up on the second ring. “Beach.”
“It’s Rabbit. You busy?”
“You mean do I have time to talk to you before taking
my wife to bed?” he asked, obviously at home on his cell.
Harry couldn’t help but grin. Kelly John had married
Emma Webster, Hank Smithson’s executive assistant, in an intimate
Christmas ceremony at Hank’s Saratoga farm.
K.J. was the first SG-5 operative to
tie the knot. The members of the Smithson Group and their significant
those who had them—had been the only attendees.
It was tough making friends—and keeping friends—when
one spied for a living.
His grin fading at the dismal thought,
Harry asked, “How
about you bring yourself and Mrs. Beach down to Dallas in the morning?”
“A Sunday in April in Dallas. Nope.” Harry
could almost see K.J. shaking his head. “Can’t think of a
Harry played his trump card. “Does
Ezra Moore compel?”
“Fuck, yeah. You got the bastard
“Not yet. But I’m getting
Harry explained the parts he and Georgia
had played earlier and their need to get their hands on the lockbox
without further exposure. “If
you can’t make it, I’ll try Christian and Natasha.”
“No can do. The boy just left
for Alaska. And before you ask, Eli is in Turkey and Julian in Japan.”
That would leave Tripp manning the ops center since Mick
Savin had pretty much taken himself off the active roster while he worked
in West Texas with his woman.
And with Simon already on surveillance at the diner, Tripp
would have no back-up at the ops center but for K.J. and Gideon Martel.
Harry frowned. “Wonder if Hank
would want to make the trip?”
“Give me the specs,” K.J. said. “Someone
will be there.”
Harry did, and had just rung off when Georgia walked up
to the table, her shaggy brown waves framing again her amazingly beautiful
She dropped her bag onto the seat of
the chair between them and pulled it close before she sat. “That’s
so much better. I was starting to get a headache, and feel like a repressed
pair or something.”
“Something like the executive assistant you were
supposed to be?” She might feel repressed, but uninhibited better
described the way she looked, not to mention her actions. As harmless
as it had been, he was still working to get that kiss out of his mind.
“If I’d had more shopping time and more shopping
choices, not to mention more shopping money of my own, your executive
assistant would have definitely been wearing something else,” she
said, holding the unbuttoned edges of her sweater much the same way she’d
held his lapels.
He watched her eyes light up as she
reached for the drink he’d ordered for her. One forearm braced on the table, he sipped
at his own. “Yeah? What?”
She frowned, shaking her head as she
that didn’t scream church lady.”
The way she fit that sweater did not
make him think of church at all. “The pearls were too much?”
“Actually, I like the pearls,” she said, fingering
them as she spoke. He liked them, too. He wanted to see her wearing them
and nothing else in his bed. “And the sweater’s nice. It’s
just not me. I’m more into—”
“I was going to say pin strips. But really, anything
would work as long as it’s not bubblegum or fluffy. I’m not
exactly the fluffy type.”
He thought of the hellcat who’d tried to strangle
Charlie Castro. She didn’t fit into pin stripes or oxfords any
more than she did into bubblegum or fluff. “I would never have
thought that you were.”
“I’m not exactly into pin stripes,” she
admitted, echoing his thoughts. She dipped a tortilla chip into the bowl
of warm salsa. “It’s more a lesser of two evils since I don’t
know of any exec who would go for T-shirts and jeans.”
“You know a lot of execs?” he
asked, opening his menu.
“I used to be married to one.”
That was interesting. “How did
you fit in at the company Christmas parties?”
“The truth?” She pulled up a memory and smiled. “I
was a hit. What woman doesn’t want to find out the best antiques
He laughed. “For some reason,
I see you sharing that investment information with the husbands instead
of the wives.”
She ate a couple of chips, sipped at her drink, licked
the salt from her lips. When their server arrived, she ordered a la carte,
tamales and borracho beans.
And then she gave him her attention. “Answer
me this, Mr. Engineering Firm, how you would like it if your co-workers
friendly with your wife? Would you dump the job? Or dump the spouse?”
Harry couldn’t imagine a single
one of his co-workers hitting on a woman belonging to a member of the
team. But he also knew
that outside of the SG-5 ranks, it happened way too often.
He hated that it had happened to her. “I
guess that would depend on which came with the better benefits.”
She stared at him blankly for several
seconds. The she threw a chip at his chest. “You are a horrible
“I am,” he agreed, then sobered. “And
I’m also very sorry you went through that.”
She shrugged. “We all have stuff in our past. I’ll
bet you could even think of something if you tried.”
“I’d rather not. I kinda like my present.” He
wondered what she would think if she knew how many men he’d killed
in his life.
“I don’t know. Your present is pretty much
a tangled mess right now. Are you going to have problems if you don’t
show up at work on Monday? I mean, that car you have, Morganna? I’m
guessing you drove down for the auction?”
What was another lie piled on top of
the rest? “I
had a couple of weeks coming. Seemed like a relaxing way to spend the
She finished off her drink. “A man and his car and
the open road. It doesn’t fit any better than the engineering thing
“You’re much too . . . help me out here.” She
waved a hand. “I can see you parasailing or base jumping. Not driving
cross-country in a fifty year old car.”
He wanted to laugh; was that really
how she saw him? And here he had thought he was doing such a good job
projecting a respectable
image. “Base jumping? Why? Just because I took a dive across the
counter in the diner? I’m not a daredevil as a rule, you know.”
She was silent while their server set
their food on the table, only speaking once he’d left. “Do
you think Charlie is letting Finn and the others eat?”
“I don’t see why he wouldn’t.” He
cut into his chile relleno, realized her hands were still in her lap,
gestured with his knife. “You. Eat. We have a busy day tomorrow,
and you passing out from hunger or dehydration would put a big kink in
He shoveled his food into his mouth and watched her struggle
with unimaginable emotions. More than anything, he wished he could tell
her how well in hand things were.
But he couldn’t give her the reassuring
details. All he could give her was a nice evening out with the promise
would not abandon her tomorrow.
So he did, and they spent the rest of
the meal talking about the treasures she hunted, the treasures she’d
found, the treasure hunters who hunted her.
Her knowledge impressed him, her enthusiasm,
too. He wasn’t
sure he knew anyone outside of SG-5 who loved their work the way she
It made it easy to understand why she lived as she did,
a vagabond with no ties, free to pick up and go, no obligations but those
she chose to take on, and what she owed to herself.
The hours moved quickly, as did her
margaritas. He was driving. He’d stopped at one.
But seeing Georgia relaxed for the first
time since yesterday lifted some of the tension he was feeling. He
hadn’t yet come up
with a plan of action should the lockbox not contain the dossier. And
that was weighing heavy on his mind.
He hated having to wait and pick either
K.J.’s brain, but if he didn’t have some sort of Thomas Edison
genius moment soon, he’d have no other choice.
And it wasn’t so much the Ezra connection, the possible
loss of the very thing he’d been assigned to discover that was
giving Harry hell.
It was that he needed to get Finn McLain
out of harm’s
way because of how much he was coming to care for Georgia.
His feelings were so strong, in fact,
that he’d come
close a couple of times to giving up caring for the outcome of his mission.
And if he didn’t shape up, there was a damn good
chance he’d be looking at a missionless future. Hank Smithson did
not take kindly to being screwed.
“I swear, another bite and I’m
going to pop like a big fat pimple.”
Harry looked up from his near empty
plate and his musings. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. “You
may dress like a church lady and look like a church lady, but no one
ever accuse you of talking like one.”
She groaned. “It’s the pearls. I swear. I’m
taking them off.”
“Don’t you dare,” he
said, his words stilling her hands at her nape.
She lowered them slowly, held onto the
edge of the table, her gaze locked with his. “Harry van Zandt.
That sounded like a threat.”
“It was,” he admitted, in for a penny, in for
a pound. “You can take off anything and everything else, but the
She continued to hold his gaze as a
sweep of color rose in her face. “You know. I’m just buzzed
enough to do it. You damn well better be careful what you say.”
He raised a finger and said the only
thing that mattered. “Check,
And at that, Georgia laughed.