Zane Garrett glanced up in time to see Alston toss a balled-up scrap of paper across the pod of desks where their team of six sat. Ty Grady threw up his arms, signaling a touchdown as the paper skidded across his desk and into his lap.
“Garrett, Grady, in my office,” McCoy called from his door. He disappeared inside.
“What’d you guys do now?” Alston asked.
Zane rolled his eyes. “Wasn’t me.”
“This time,” Clancy chimed in.
“I hope it was me,” Ty said with relish. He stood and buttoned his suit, leaving a half-finished firearms discharge form open on his computer.
“Sometimes I wonder how far you’d go to get out of paperwork,” Alston said.
“Watch old episodes of Pinky and the Brain and you might get close,” Zane muttered, drawing snorts of laughter from their other two teammates.
“Before everything went digital, I had the Bureau docs convinced I was allergic to paper pulp,” Ty told them, dead serious. His hazel eyes were shining. “It was beautiful.”
“You’re allergic to everything else,” Zane said as he pushed out of his chair. “Come on. You know what he did to us the last time we made him wait.”
“Salon appointments,” Lassiter mused.
“PR lectures,” Alston said.
“Enforced vacation?” Clancy added.
“Christ, I don’t know which of those is worse,” Zane said. It was all part and parcel of being Ty Grady’s partner. And, Zane had to be honest, some of it was his own fault too.
Ty pointed around at each of his teammates, playfully threatening them as he trailed after Zane. He knocked on the doorjamb, peering into the Special Agent in Charge’s office. McCoy looked up from his computer screen and smirked.
A cold chill ran through Zane’s body. “Oh hell.”
“What now?” Ty blurted. They both knew that the look on McCoy’s face was a harbinger of doom.
McCoy shook his head and motioned for them to come in and close the door. Once Ty had pushed it shut, McCoy waved two sheets of paper at them. “Several weeks ago, we had a request put in. An unusual one, but it’s a reasonable step toward keeping our noses clean in the press.”
“Is this more PR bullshit?” Ty asked.
“It’s not bullshit,” McCoy had the gall to say with a straight face.
Zane sat with a deep sigh. “You’ve still got me giving a community lecture once a month as it is. The last one? The deputy mayor asked me if I’d speak to the Chamber of Commerce. How am I supposed to be a discreet, undercover criminal investigator when everyone knows who I am?”
“That’s a very good point,” Ty said.
“That’s one of the things I need to speak to you both about. Individually. Later,” McCoy added with a more somber cast to his face. “But for now we’ll deal with this one—very reasonable—request.”
“Which is?” Ty asked.
“There’s a fundraising calendar being put together by a local first responder organization.”
Ty stood up, holding his hand out toward McCoy as if to ward off evil. “Hell no!”
Zane blinked. “A calendar?”
McCoy nodded. “They’re using people from state, federal, and municipal organizations, and all proceeds are going to a fund set up to aid first responders injured in the line of duty.”
“Admirable,” Zane said.
“You’ve both been requested as . . . models,” McCoy managed to say without cracking a smile.
Zane looked from his partner back to McCoy. “You’re joking.” Ty was shaking his head, thumbing through numbers on the cell phone in his hand. Zane hadn’t even seen him pull it out.
“I never joke,” McCoy said with a hint of mischief. He looked to Ty. “If you’re intending to call Richard Burns to get you out of this, I won’t have it. The Bureau needs this and you’re the ones they want.”
Ty narrowed his eyes at McCoy, then turned his phone off and curled his lip at Zane. There was also a hint of apprehension in his expression, but he hid it quickly.
“We’ve been assured the photographs will be tastefully done,” McCoy said.
“Fine,” Zane said, pointing at Ty. “Send him. But why me?”
Ty shook his head and gestured toward Zane while raising one eyebrow at McCoy. “I think the real question is: Why do they need me when they have such a fine specimen right here?” he said, sounding like a used car salesman trying to sell a Pinto.
Zane reached out and whapped Ty on the back of the head.
Ty laughed and ducked away, still trying to sell Zane. “Little bit of eyeliner, some spray tan, I mean, come on! He’s beautiful!”
McCoy smiled, though he looked as if he was trying not to. “Am I to assume the two of you will agree to representing the Bureau in this?”
“I think ‘agree’ is too strong a term,” Zane said. “This is a bad idea. Remember when we were on TV?”
“Yes, Grady got fan mail for a month.”
“We burned it, as you should all evil things,” McCoy answered.
From Ty’s expression, he was trying to figure out if McCoy was being facetious or serious.
Zane laughed and wiped his hand over his face.
“I’m not going to force you, Garrett. But I am going to force Grady because he owes me.”
“What?” Ty shouted.
McCoy ignored him. “But I need an answer from you right now.”
Zane was still laughing over the absurdity of the idea as he glanced at Ty, weighing his options and wondering just what the punishment would be if he bowed out. Because there would be retribution from his partner. For sure. Of course, if he went along of his own free will, there might be a reward involved. A hot, naked, angry reward. Not that McCoy needed to know anything about that.
Ty flopped his hands. “I mean, hell, I have about as much say in it as I usually do, so why not? I’m game.”
Zane sighed. “I’ll never hear the end of it if I say no, will I?” Ty jerked his head to the side, raising an eyebrow higher in warning. He was a handsome man when he was annoyed. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Fine, I’ll do it.”
“Good!” McCoy stood and clapped his hands together once. “Go now.”
“What?” Ty asked flatly.
“The crew is in the lobby to take you to a hotel for the photo shoot. Go. Now.”