In From the Cold

Chapter 17

Alex POV


By the end of the weekend, Bobby and I couldn't wait to go back to the federal building, armed with our new information.

His money was on Banta and mine was on Beemer, although I had to admit that I was biased.

Even though Beemer had mostly left me alone since our stairwell incident, I still hated him with every fiber of my being.

Bobby's theory was based on Banta's reputation, considering the attractiveness of Isabelle Mullins.

"You've heard his stories," he reminded me.

It was Sunday night and I was filling the tub with water.

Back in the beginning of this assignment, we'd come in the bathroom to talk, and we'd turn on the sink or the shower just for the noise factor and then we'd stand in the room and talk.

Now that our relationship had evolved, we actually got into the tub together.

It wasn't all that big, but it worked.

We usually stayed in until we ran out of hot water, simply because we could talk quietly without reservation.

"I've heard enough," I agreed. "But I just don't see him having a motive."

"So what's Beemer's motive?"

"I think he's motivated by power. He likes thinking that he's the smartest man in the room. And he gets off on being in control. By hooking up with Hassan, he feels like he's got one up on the Bureau. So when Stahl brought Ross into the operation, he had to tell Hassan."

"What about Patal? They didn't kill him, and you know that Beemer knew about him, too."

Patal was a Bureau informant and an electronics expert. He'd supposedly verified for Hassan that the weapons in the shipment were clean of tracking devices.

"I'm betting that Patal came clean with Hassan. I mean, they still haven't tracked the weapons, have they?"

He nodded in agreement.

We'd discussed Patal's role in the operation before.

The Bureau couldn't be sure that he'd played both sides because they couldn't be sure where the weapons were until they were armed. But in the mean time, they weren't using his services any more.

Of course, that information wasn't restricted to Beemer. Any of the agents on the task force would know that, including Banta, so it didn't exactly help narrow the field.

I stripped out of my clothes and stuck one foot into the tub to test the water.

"And you know," I added suddenly. "Maybe Ross was even suspicious of Beemer. I mean, surely there were ways that he could've gotten Ross pulled from the assignment. But instead, Beemer ratted him out, knowing that they'd kill him."

"Before Ross could point the finger at him?"

"I don't know," I admitted with a shrug. "I'm just speculating."

"It's not an implausible theory," he conceded.

I stood next to the tub and watched him as he pulled off his sweatpants and t-shirt.

"You know, he tried to fix me up the other day," he said as he finished removing his clothes and stepped up next to the tub.

"Who? Beemer?"

"Banta."

"With who?" I asked, and I had a flash of jealousy that caught me by surprise.

First of all, I'm not really the jealous type. And secondly, he obviously hadn't gone through with any kind of fix up.

But still…just the thought had me a little peeved.

"I don't know for sure," he said with a shake of his head. "We didn't get that far. Some woman in cyber crimes."

"Why would he do that? Everyone at the Bureau knows we're together."

Bobby eased down in the hot water and then motioned for me to get in. I sat at the opposite end and he immediately picked up one of my feet.

"He had some whole thing worked out," he told me as he rubbed his thumb over the sole. "He told me that you'd never find out."

"Why?" I asked again.

"I think he wanted to impress me," he said casually.

"Or maybe he wanted to have something on you," I suggested. "If you'd done it, then he'd have leverage."

"Which would suggest that maybe he is our guy," he asserted. "Otherwise what good would leverage do him?"

"I don't know," I mumbled.

I couldn't get past the visual of Bobby out on a date with some nameless, faceless woman.

It had bugged me back in the old days when we were merely partners. I'd always hated to think about who he might be out with, although in his defense, he mostly kept that information to himself.

I had no doubt that he had dated, probably quite a bit.

I mean, he's too good-looking to not get hit on by women on a fairly regular basis.

I'd witnessed it myself on more than one occasion and I'd always managed to hold my tongue.

For the most part.

But on the inside, it used to tear me up because I just knew that I'd never have a chance with him.

This was one time that I was really glad I'd been wrong.

But even now, now that I knew that he loved me and I trusted him to be faithful, the thought of another woman even getting the idea that he might be interested…well, that just didn't sit right with me.

Like I said, I may have never been the jealous type before, but I sure as hell was now.

"That bothers you, doesn't it?" he asked me as he switched to my other foot. "You know that I wouldn't…I mean, it was never even a remote consideration."

"I know that," I said quickly.

Because I did.

He was too honest for that.

And most women probably think that their man would never cheat. Hell, I didn't think that Joe would ever cheat on me either.

But this was different.

Bobby wouldn't do it because trust was too important to him, too ingrained in him to ever abuse it.

"Do you?" he asked me softly as he brought my foot up to his lips.

He kissed the instep and then worked his way along each toe. I felt myself relaxing under his ministrations.

I realized that I'd been getting worked up for nothing.

"Yes," I answered.

I leaned my head back against the edge of the tub and closed my eyes as he continued his assault on my foot.

"So tell me how Beemer fits," he said, moving his attention from my foot to my calf.

"Beemer was Stahl's partner. He would know every move that she made."

"True. But Banta was on the task force. He would have access to that information, too."

"Beemer got leapfrogged by Stahl," I reminded him. "That had to piss him off. Maybe it was his way of sticking it to the Bureau."

He hummed thoughtfully, but I was losing my focus.

I've loved his fingers for years, but now that I knew exactly what kind of touch they could offer…it was even better than I'd imagined.

His constant need to be in motion was a really good thing.

So while I felt like my muscles were melting into the soapy water, he kept up a steady stroking and kneading along my legs.

And then, out of nowhere, I had an idea.

I was amazed that my brain was even still working, considering that he'd shifted his position in the tub and had presently worked his way up to my thighs.

But it was working.

And it had flashed back on what he'd said earlier.

"Cyber crimes?" I asked him without opening my eyes.

"Alex, I promise you. There's no need…"

"Maybe you should take Banta up on his suggestion," I interrupted.

My words caused his fingers to stop moving, so I raised my head to look at him.

"You want me to…"

"We need to look at some personnel files without getting caught, right?"

"Well, yeah…"

"And I'm betting that someone in cyber crimes is probably pretty adept with a computer. And if she's trying to impress the smartest man in the FBI, who just happens to be extremely charming…"

"You're trying to pimp me out?" he asked me as he finally grasped what I was suggesting.

His hands tightened their grip on my thighs and then he grabbed onto my hips and pulled me closer to him so that I was straddling his lap.

"I'm trying find a way for you to finesse confidential information," I modified.

"Weren't you jealous just a few minutes ago?" he asked as he ran his hands up my back.

"I was. And I still am," I admitted. "But I'm willing to deal with it if it means we can get our information. I mean, you had to watch me walking around in that bar wearing practically the equivalent of underwear, right? So maybe it's my turn to suffer a little for the greater good."

"I don't want you to suffer," he countered. "Besides, how am I supposed to get her to look up that kind of information?"

"You can talk a tiger out of his stripes," I replied. "And I'll chat up Banta while you're in with the floozy."

He chuckled lightly as he nuzzled his nose in the crook of my neck and then began kissing his way up to my ear.

"Floozy? She's a federal agent."

"So am I. And I'm betting that I'm a lot better shot than she is, so as long as she stays behind her desk and you finagle information from her, we'll be fine. If she makes a move on you beyond harmless flirting, I won't be responsible for my actions."

"And while I'm doing that, you're going to talk to Banta?"

"You can tell him to keep me occupied so that you don't get caught."

"Well, what if that was his goal?" he asked reasonably.

"To distract you so that he could get me alone?"

I hadn't considered that, but I couldn't imagine that was the case. I mean, I had no doubt that he was nowhere near as lucky with women as he claimed to be, but still…

"I can handle myself," I said. "And I can pump him for information. You think he's our guy, right?"

"Maybe."

"Okay. I'll see what I can do," I told him. "While you behave yourself."

"I don't have to behave myself right now, do I?" he asked me, his hands once again on my hips.

I could feel the length of him pressing against me, so close to where I wanted it to be, but just not quite there yet…

"Absolutely not. In fact, I think that you should be as bad as possible."

So we spent the next half-hour being very bad.

Or really, really good, depending on how you look at it.

Then we got out of the tub and into our modest sleeping attire and left the sanctity of the bathroom.

I remembered back to the time when I'd been perplexed by his full-size bed.

Now it seemed plenty big enough because the two of us slept together in the middle with his arms around me and our legs entangled beneath the covers.

Monday morning, we went into work at the federal building.

We'd only been there for a few minutes when SAC Casteel summoned us to his office.

"Agents Goren and Eames," he greeted. "Come in."

It felt like being called into the principal's office and I was a little worried about what sin we may have unwittingly committed. His face was a hard read, as he managed to keep it expressionless the majority of the time.

"So," he began once we were seated. "It has been brought to my attention that the two of you have yet to complete your training at Quantico."

My heart sank at the prospect. I'd been hoping desperately that we wouldn't still be around when it came time to have this conversation.

Four months, in gender-specific dorms, working our asses off while having no access or availability to work on this case.

It would be four months down the drain.

"Sir, it was my understanding that it wasn't a priority," I said.

"It wasn't," he agreed. "But you two have been here for six months. I believe that surpasses the leeway of professional courtesy."

"Well, you have kept us pretty busy," Bobby reminded him.

"You've made a name for yourselves in a very short period of time," he said with a nod. "And your dedication to undercover work is a rare commodity. Most agents burn out quickly doing that type of thing."

"We enjoy it," I said.

"I'm glad to hear it. Unfortunately, I can't put off your required training for much longer."

At his statement, I relaxed marginally and smiled on the inside.

Can't put it off for much longer meant that he would put it off for now.

Which was a huge relief because I'd had the sudden image of him ordering us directly from his office to the airport.

"We understand, Sir," Bobby said. "We'll be sure to make arrangements with Agent Stahl to schedule the training in the near future."

"The very near future," Casteel amended.

"Yes sir."

"That's all," he said, waving his hand at us dismissively. "And keep up the good work."

We were almost to the door when I stopped and decided to push the envelope by asking the question.

"Sir, if I may," I began. "Can you tell us who brought it to your attention?"

Was it someone whose job it was to follow up on those types of things?

Or was it just an agent who was poking his nose into our business?

Maybe someone who had a reason for wanting to get rid of us for four months.

"I'm sorry?"

"You said that it was brought to your attention that we hadn't completed our training. I was just curious as to who mentioned it to you."

He stared at me for so long that I thought he wasn't going to answer.

And then I panicked, thinking that maybe I'd pissed him off and so now he was going to send us to Quantico immediately.

But then he started nodding his head as though he'd just remembered.

"It took me a minute," he said, confirming my assessment. "But I remember now. It was Agent Beemer."


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