Your eyes flick from Paxton to Greyson and back.. Their expressions are a little too serious for your liking.. You brace yourself for the bad news, the questions already beginning to funnel into your mind..
How bad is it?
You try your best to keep the worry from showing on your face and cracking in your voice.. "What? Is it Mikki?"
Paxton doesn't blink, but Greyson looks over to Hunter, giving away the answer with that one simple movement.. You think of your friend Mikki, fearing the worst.. "What happened to her? Is she okay?"
Anxiety blooms in your chest, you watch Paxton adjust his stylish silver watch before he shakes his head.. "She's alive, Ellerie.. But Knox couldn't get close enough to make contact with her.. She is back living at the De'lucca Estate.."
After everything you had done to help her escape the mob.. Escape her father, Angelo De'lucca, they had managed to suck her back into their toxic criminal family..
Whatever they have on her, or whatever threat they issued to have her returned must have been extremely persuasive.. "Shit, that's not great.." Your eyes go to Greyson warily.. So far he has sat quietly, only listening and you're beginning to wonder what it is he's doing here and if you should really be discussing this in front of him..
You nod in Ace's direction but speak directly to Paxton.. "What is he doing here then?"
Hunter claps Ace on the shoulder.. "Ah, see.. Ace here, he told me something real interesting that I thought you'd appreciate hearing.."
You raise an eyebrow in interest, tuning to Ace.. "Oh?"
He brushes back his black locks looking like some James Dean-esque, old Hollywood movie star with his liquid blue gaze accentuated by his dark denim jeans, tight black tee and leather jacket.. "Back at the CIA I worked an assassination case involving the De'lucca family.. Mikki's brother Bobbi was the target.."
You remember.. Bobbi's death had been one of the final straws for Mikki.. Losing her brother had provided the catalyst she needed to finally open up to you.. When she told you what she had suspected her corrupted husband had really been up to.. That he had somehow been compromised.. "I know the case.."
He nods and presses on.. "Yeah.. Well, when I followed the money trail to the guys that green lit Bobbi.. I came up with a handful of names.. Charles Everett, Mack Fletcher and one more.."
Mack Fletcher is Angelo De'lucca's number two.. So his name is not particularly surprising here, you had speculated yourself that he may have been involved given how much he disliked his boss's son..
Charles' involvement is more of a surprise, but you learned long ago that you never really knew the guy, even though you worked side by side for four years.. Goes to show the double lives people can lead without even a highly trained operative noticing..
He looks to Paxton again who nods at him, giving him permission to continue.. Ace turns back to you.. "Elijah Pierce.."
From the way he says the name you can tell it doesn't mean all that much to him.. But it does to you..
Your mouth falls open.. "How reliable is your information?"
He half shrugs one shoulder casually.. "Extremely, mam'.. I wouldn't repeat it otherwise.."
You fall back into the chair.. Astounded.. You knew Elijah operated in the grey sometimes and there was more than one occasion when you doubted his leadership..
No, this goes beyond bad..
And now suddenly Elijah's phonecall yesterday, coupled with those creepy photos you found is all stating to feel way too sinister.. "Please, call me Ellerie.. And I'm glad you brought this to me.. Thank you, Greyson.."
He smiles and bows his head.. "Ace. And I got your back, Ellerie.." He stands winking one bright blue at you, extending his hand, so you smile and take it, shaking twice in return with a firm grip..
He's definitely charming enough, and his comradery seems sincere.. You decide in that moment that you like him and you most definitely owe him a favour.. "I owe you one.."
He waves a hand turning and heading for the door in long strides.. "Nah, we're all on the same team here.."
Paxton doesn't make a move to get up, but he calls out, stopping Greyson in the doorway.. When he speaks its in a much gruffer tone than you'd have expected him to use with a friend.. "Ace. You're not going uptown.. Right?"
Hunter fiercely stares him down but Ace doesn't blink, you watch their tense moment unfold, quietly intrigued..
"Why would I?" Ace replies cooly..
Their little flex off is rather entertaining and you almost laugh, but manage to cover it by pretending to clear your throat..
"Good lad.." Hunter turns back to you and Ace leaves without another word, pulling the door closed behind him..
"Umm.. What the hell was that?" You grin, leaning forward and placing your elbows on the desk, folding your hands beneath your chin, playing up your curiosity..
"He just needed reminding that I know more than he ever will.." He shrugs with a sly smile You chuckle..
What an ego!
"Of course.. You're the boss after all.."
He leans in now too.. Your breath hitches but you don't flinch.. "I'm not your boss, Ellerie.." His grey eyes fix on yours like a hawk..
"No.. That's-- I suppose not.." You tilt your head to one side narrowing your eyes at him suspiciously..
If you didn't know any better you'd swear he was coming on to you right now.. He grins before leaning back into his chair and shifting the conversation back to business, immediately the tension in the air slackens and you can breathe again.. "This Pierce guy.. He was your director at the FBI, right?" He's done some research, but not enough.. You shake your head.. Elijah Pierce wasn't just your directior at the FBI.. He is one of the lead directors of the FBI..
Very few people know his name or have seen his face.. The only people higher up than him are the ones you had tried to give your report to.. Reports that included information that most likely would have led to exactly what Greyson had uncovered..
Which now in retrospect you're wondering if those reports were ever even received.. Unlikely..
"Worse.. Way worse.." You rub your eyes, the pressure behind them giving you a headache..
He frowns.. "So what do we need?"
You blow out a breath..
A stiff god damned drink is what you need! But you can't very well say that!
"Proof.. A smoking gun.. He's too close to the top to take him out any other way.. But if we can get something on him before the hearing.. I still have some friends in DC.. I might be able to go above his head.."
He nods thoughtfully.. "Right.. Then, I'll find you something.."
Your brows rise, he is being much too accommodating about this.. "Just like that?"
He chuckles running a hand back through his short blonde waves.. "Yeah.. Just like that.." He rises to his feet and your eyes travel up over his muscular chest to meet his gaze..
"Hunter, wait.." You hold up a hand, pausing while you try to process it all and figure out why he's being so agreeable..
He gives you a lopsided grin.. "What am I waiting for?"
You sigh.. "Why do I get the feeling that was too easy?"
His eyes flash mischievously before he turns for the door.. "Was it?"
You give up and shake your head with a laugh, setting about sorting through the stack of paperwork in front of you.. Hunter crosses to the door pulling it open before he turns back to you.. "Can you meet me tonight?"
You look up, confused.. "What--Why?!"
He grins.. "So you can fill me in on Pierce.."
You swallow, your mouth suddenly feeling dry as a desert..
And Hunter Paxton is definitely one tall, cool drink of water...
Your head bobbles with a bewildered nod.. "I.. Yeah.. I can do that.."