When you work with someone for years, you think you know them pretty well.
Casey Wicker and Martin Bishop are a British Secret Service team with a reputation for ignoring rules but delivering results. They’ve also built a tight friendship, with more than a spark of unspoken attraction.
While on assignment to Scotland Yard, Martin rescues Casey and exposes him to a life-changing secret. Martin is not what he seems, and now that Casey is aware of that, the knowledge most likely comes with a death sentence.
When a way to avoid the tragic ending is suggested, it may very well take more cooperation than anyone is willing to expend.
|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)|
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"YOU'RE UTTER RUBBISH at this, you know that, right?" Casey shouted as Martin's long legs ate up the distance ahead of them, arms and shoulders bunching and rolling in graceful synchronicity.
"In what particular way —" Martin ducked around a corner and took off down the next street, shouting back over his shoulder "— am I rubbish?"
"You, Martin Christopher Bishop —" Casey suddenly grabbed his arm roughly and pulled him into a shadowed doorway. "— are rubbish at the whole secret part of secret agent."
They stood close together, heads almost level, breathing hard and grinning in spite of the danger as the sounds of angry shouting faded in the distance.
"We got the document we were after, didn't we? I don't see the problem." Martin's eyes sparkled bright blue even in the dimly lit recess as he ran a hand quickly through his short dark hair. Casey smiled at the familiar habit that tended to appear when in risky situations.
"You don't see —" Casey took a moment to bend, putting his hands on his knees, and gasped great lungfuls of air as his shaggy blonde hair fell over his eyes. "You don't see the problem? We can never come back to Liberec, you idiot. You might as well have signed into the hotel as James Bond if you intended to grab the papers in broad daylight."
Martin leant against the rough bricks, chuckling as he tucked the documents in question away inside his jacket. "Don't make such a fuss. What're the chances we'll ever need to come back to this area of Prague anyway?"
Casey straightened and tried for his most withering stare, his brown gaze meeting Martin's, before giving in and laughing along with his partner. "Hopeless. You're hopeless. Why do I work with you?"
"My rakish charm, my scintillating conversation? C'mon, admit it, you love me." He ducked his head out, casting a quick glance both ways. "The coast is clear. Ready for another sprint?"
"Always." He took one last breath and broke into a run. "And I don't love you, for the record. You're a complete tit."CHAPTER 2
"GENTLEMEN." THE SINGLE word held a weary tolerance as Director Lockhart opened the file sitting on the desk in front of her. "Welcome home."
Martin and Casey both knew better than to respond to that particular tone; it didn't bode well.
"Well —" The director licked her lips. "— let's take a look, shall we?"
Casey suppressed the instinct to wince.
"Intel retrieved." She looked up, a false smile plastered on her face. "That's just lovely, isn't it, boys? Always nice to see a big tick at the bottom of the page. Well done." Her tone indicated it was anything but.
"Loss of life? Well, that's an excellent result too. No messy cleanup to deal with. That makes a nice change for you, doesn't it, Casey?"
Casey studiously kept his head down, his long fringe obscuring his eyes from the director's cutting look. From the corner of his eye, Martin opened his mouth, perhaps to defend him. He kicked his partner's ankle hard, and Martin's teeth clicked shut again.
"Hmm." With unhappy pursed lips, the director turned the page. "Not so good on this page, is it, boys? Damage to property, nearly two million pounds, including three cars and an ice-cream stand, fifteen innocent bystanders injured." She frowned up at them both. "Two of them seriously, and ... what's this? Oh, a formal complaint lodged by the Prague government with Her Majesty. We haven't had one of those for over a decade."
The director closed the file and linked her fingers together on the desk in front of her, holding the two men in her steely gaze. "Which brings us to the question of what to do with the two of you."
Both raised their heads to hear their sentence like naughty schoolboys caught smoking behind the shed.
She sighed and continued more gently. "Look, lads, it's not that we don't appreciate your success rate. And I'm the first to concede that it's often your unorthodox approach that delivers it. But I can't overlook the political consequences. The order's come from above to make an example of you, so —"
Martin heaved a noisy sigh, and Casey shot him a warning glance.
"You'll be spending some time on home soil. That way, we can inform the Prague government that we're taking this seriously, but we can still give you boys the headroom you need. God help us if we tried to confine either of you to a desk." She lifted a second file from a drawer beneath her desk. "We've had a request from Scotland Yard for assistance with a rather high-level jewellery theft."
"You want us to waste our time retrieving some lost earrings?" Martin spluttered in disbelief.
"Yes, Agent Bishop, we want you to assist, and you'll be damned happy to do it." The steel was back in her voice.
"Yes, ma'am," Martin corrected himself as Casey held his tongue, lips tight.
"In fact, the request came from — let me just check — Detective Inspector Carrington. When I spoke to him about the case earlier today, he suggested he has dealt with you in the past, Agent Bishop."
At the name, something behind Martin's eyes lit, and with a short nod, there was a subtle change in his demeanour. Casey wondered if perhaps Martin saw something in the case beyond the obvious.
"Very well, gentlemen, we're done, then. Tomorrow morning, you'll report to DI Jared Carrington, and I don't expect to see you back until the case is resolved to his satisfaction."
The two men rose to leave until her voice drew their attention back.
"Oh, and boys? Try not to blow anything up, please."
THEY FINISHED THE evening over scotches in front of the fire at their local club. The Retreat was less of a bar and more of a lounge, providing a quiet haven for many of the British Secret Service. Known for its discretion and exceptional liquid refreshments, the owner kept a careful eye on the clientele, allowing the patrons precious hours to let their guard down and recharge their emotional batteries.
"So —" Casey rolled the oversized ice cube around within the crystal tumbler as the firelight shone through the rich amber of the twenty-year-old Glenlivet. "You know this Carrington bloke?"
"My brother, Leon, knows him." Martin avoided Casey's eyes, turning his own glass this way and that on the small side table. "I think I've only met the DI twice."
Casey ran fingers through his fringe, pushing it out of his eyes. "Your brother's a lawyer, yeah?" Martin rarely mentioned his family, and when he did talk about Leon, it was usually with a note of derision.
Martin hummed a vaguely affirmative noise, his deep voice rumbling. "A QC, Queen's Council. The whole robe-and-wig bit. He looks like an idiot in them."
Casey laughed, the ice in his glass rattling as his hand shook with mirth. "I can imagine."
"Hey, look." A voice came from the shadows to their right. "It's Agents Destruction and Mayhem. We hear you destroyed Prague. A round of applause, folks."
The slow clap was taken up sporadically by a couple of others in the dim room, and Casey sighed, trying to sink farther back into the cushions of his chair. It wasn't unusual for the two of them to become the butt of jokes. Their reputations were well known, and the pointed jibes were often as much from jealousy at their record as the mess they tended to leave behind.
"It bothers you." Martin had leant forward in his chair, dropping his already deep voice to whisper only for their ears. When Casey lifted his gaze, there was a clear concern in his partner's. Martin might be reckless and headstrong, but there was never any doubt where his loyalty lay. They'd die for each other. In fact, they almost had on several occasions, and with a tight-lipped nod, Casey conceded it was true.
"We're bloody good agents, Martin, and we get fuck-all respect from these tossers." He gestured minutely into the darkness of the pub. "I know you come from money, but I had to work to get where I am. So, yes, it pisses me off that they treat us like the Service's joke."
Martin nodded thoughtfully, anger rising behind his eyes. "Right ... stay here." He was up and out of the chair before Casey could even consider stopping him. He could only watch as his partner strode across the room, cocky swagger and attitude in every muscle, looking the tiniest bit like a jaguar stalking its prey.
"Agent McKenzie," Martin's baritone carried clearly through the room as he approached the man. "How pleasant to see you. Have you finished for the day? I imagine it must be rather challenging, keeping up with ... what was it you're doing today, evidence cataloguing, isn't it?"
Casey didn't see who threw the first punch, but he assumed it was McKenzie since he saw Martin throw the second. From that point, things became a bit complicated and ended shortly afterwards with someone's fist flying toward Martin and his partner twisting awkwardly as he tried to dodge. As Casey watched, Martin seemed to fall in slow motion, cracking his head against the bar on the way to the floor.
Casey was up out of his seat and moving across the room before he'd even had time to consider whether it was the wisest move. He pulled Martin away from the angry shouting. Martin's arms were loose and uncoordinated as he tried to wipe the welling blood from his eyes. Casey dragged him toward the back of the bar. He shoved at the back door with one arm, the other firmly wedged beneath Martin's arm, then dragged the semiconscious man out into the night.
"OH, FOR GOD'S sake, Martin!" The small brown-haired woman could put a surprising amount of disapproval behind her usually gentle tone when stretched.
Casey hauled Martin through Dr. Alissa Satterfield's apartment door.
"Again?" she queried as Casey lowered his messy burden into the kitchen chair with a sigh of resignation.
"Again" came the reply as she bustled off to retrieve her first-aid kit from the bathroom. "Bar fight, but to be fair, he was defending my honour."
"As if your honour needs defending by him," she called from down the hall.
In truth, she knew they were fortunate to have a colleague like her. She kept to businesslike efficiency and protocol during the day, but this wasn't the first time she'd surreptitiously tended to after-hours injuries. She and Martin had an odd relationship. While she took every opportunity to berate him, she'd never — absolutely never — turn him away, and there was a familiar fondness in the jibes they exchanged. Both she and Martin had already been with the Service when Casey had joined, and their shared history made them close.
Alissa reentered the room and, with a frustrated growl, snatched the cloth away from Martin's forehead. "Don't use that, it's filthy. What are you, twelve?" she hissed, tossing it toward the bench.
"Sorry S-s-s-s-Alissa," Martin slurred, blinking in the bright light of the kitchen.
Her tight lips softened at his tone, and she bent closer, nudging Casey out of the way as she did so. "Okay, Martin, let's take a look at you."
Familiar with the routine, Casey put the kettle on as the doctor worked silently, cleaning, stitching, and checking Martin's pupillary responsiveness.
"Any vomiting, headache?" she asked when she was done, and sipped at a bright-red mug that said I found this humerus together with a picture of a bone below it.
Martin shook his head, before moaning and mumbling, "A little."
As she cleared her things away, she delivered her verdict. "Mild concussion. You know the drill, Casey. He can spend the night on my couch, and you can watch him until the morning, waking him every hour. I'll be damned if I'm staying up."
Casey nodded. It wouldn't be the first — or likely the last — time he spent a sleepless night standing vigil over his reckless partner.
"You know where the blankets are." Alissa grabbed the kit and made her way down the hall in the direction of her bedroom. "I think eggs would be lovely for breakfast; scrambled if you don't mind."
As she paused in the doorway, she threw back a playful smile. "A pleasure as always, boys. Sleep well."
By the time Alissa had showered and dressed the following morning, the kitchen was full of the smells of bacon, eggs, and toast. The indestructible Martin, seemingly no worse for his run-in was at the stove, deftly mixing herbs into a pile of creamy eggs. He'd retrieved one of the spare shirts he had squirrelled away in her hall closet and apparently taken the time to iron his rumpled suit if the crisp pleats that showed under the edge of a ridiculously flowery apron were any indication. Casey, meanwhile, was still half-dressed in her lounge, ludicrous superhero boxers hiding his modesty as he did the best he could with her ironing board.
"Boys," she greeted them brightly, taking a seat at the kitchen table, then sniffed appreciatively. "No ill effects?"
"Once again, I've had the assistance of a truly excellent doctor." Martin tipped an invisible hat to her expertise and then proceeded to shovel eggs onto the waiting plate.
"Rumour has it that we're loaning you two to Scotland Yard?"
"Rumours would be correct." Having pulled on his trousers and shirt, Casey joined them in the kitchen. "We're to see DI Carrington this morning."
"Jared?" She looked up to Martin, and there was the barest hint of a shake of his head as their eyes met.
"Yeah," Martin confirmed after the smallest of pauses. "The guy my brother knows. I think I told you about him once or twice."
"Of course," she replied with a light laugh, "that's where I heard the name. What will you be doing?"
Martin took the opportunity to move the topic from the man to the case. "Something about some missing jewellery. Complete waste of our time, but, of course, we go where our government demands."
"Yes." The sarcastic tone wasn't lost on them. "Because you two are such proper little rule followers."
Twenty minutes later, dishes tucked away in the dishwasher, both men stooped slightly to place matching kisses on the short woman's cheek. She bid them both farewell and sent them on their way to what she had no doubt would be yet another case containing more than its fair share of drama.CHAPTER 3
TWO WEEKS LATER, Casey and Martin were hot on the trail of the missing jewellery and had narrowed the search to a small town in Surrey. In search of more information, they'd managed to break into the barn belonging to one of their prime suspects. And that's when things all went wrong.
They'd climbed to the upper floor of a rustic barn, hoping for some clue that either the thieves or their bounty had been there. Martin was hunting among boxes and sacks in the corner, leaving Casey to check in the loose hay covering the floor near the edge.
The third to last thought after Casey snagged his foot on something and tumbled over the edge with a shout was that he hoped the landing would be hard enough to kill him immediately. He'd seen the effects of long agonizing months of paralysis and injury on other agents. If it were all right with the universe, he'd much rather skip all that and head straight to the pearly gates.
The second to last thought was a momentary confusion as to how Martin had somehow managed to materialize between him and the ground and was falling with him, his body a physical barrier between him and the no-doubt punishing floor below.
The very last thought, barely a flicker in the final moments before the wind was knocked out of him and he lost consciousness was that their descent was slowing ... and that was fundamentally impossible.
"TURN AWAY, CASEY." Martin's deep voice, cracking with pain, reached him as he struggled back from oblivion.
Casey, for the moment, could neither turn toward or away from the voice, his every rational thought taken up with dragging air into his lungs, mercifully still working after his fall from the landing two stories above. He looked at the distant floorboards far overhead and wondered again how he was alive and awake.
"Just don't move, Casey. Don't sit up, don't roll over, and for the love of God, don't look in my direction."
Snippets of memories tripped over each other in Casey's head. Falling, Martin's strong arms cradling him from below as they tumbled, hitting the ground, Martin beneath him, shielding him from the worst of it. Panic rose like a wave in response to the sound of pain and fear in Martin's voice, and the possibility that his partner was critically injured hit him like a bullet.
In spite of Martin's desperate pleas to remain still, Casey slowly stretched one arm and then the other. Having reassured himself that they worked normally, he repeated the gentle flexing with his legs and then an agonizingly slow twist of his spine this way and that. He again marvelled at the lack of damage, and his thoughts circled back to concern for Martin, who must surely have fared worse in their joined fall.
"Martin, hang on. I'm coming over to you."
The alarm in Martin's voice rose to new heights. "NO! Stay over there, Casey."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fallen for You"
Copyright © 2018 Jules Dee.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
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