It was nearly a full day before the team made it back to the house. It’d been a short reconnaissance and information-gathering job, at least according to the brief, but she had three holes in her dress that had been holes through her until Allayne had thrown a healing at her. She’d had to do some interesting running to get her prey where she could subdue them one by one, and then even more interesting running to get to their backup-backup meetup spot without being seen.
Ezer was still cursing in her earpiece when they pulled into the driveway, their second nondescript rental car returned to its proper location. “Those fucking bastards. Reconnaissance. Reconnaissance does not mean getting my people fucking shot at.”
“Awww, Ezzie, I didn’t know you cared.” Even when Senga knew what Allayne was doing, that purr through the earpiece still sent shivers straight down her spine to her groin. And it did the same thing to Ezer a hundredfold. “Chitter, did you get what we needed?”
“Got it all and a couple soupcon of extras, too. If we don’t get hazard pay for this, I’m posting nude photos of the client to a photo-manip contest.”
“The client is anonymous,” Ezer complained. “Chitter, do you even know the meaning of that word?”
“Of course I do.” If Allayne was all purring and sex, Chitter sounded like an unrepentant twelve-year-old. “It means that their data is hidden under a hankie or maybe two and I just have to lift it to figure it out. Anyway, there’s a tall sulking angry person in the kitchen, and he’s between me and the Mt. Dew. Senga, are you nearly home?”
“Coming in the door now. How did you even beat us home?”
“Magic powers, of course. Senga, he’s a giant. How did you end up with a giant?”
“I can hear you, you know.” Erramun’s grumble came loud and clear through Chitter’s earpiece.
“Ack, it talks! He talks, he talks, Senga, you did give him orders about not killing me, right?”
“Nothing about not shaking you, though.” Senga headed into the kitchen and dropped her earpiece in the bin Chitter held out. “Erramun, why are you looming at Chitter? Erramun, Chitter, Chitter, Erramun. Stop glaring at him. It’s not his fault he’s tall.”
Erramun shook his head and looked away from Chitter. She, in turn, kept glaring up at Erramun.
“I’m not looming at her,” he muttered. “I didn’t know who she was and she – you’ve been shot.”
“Three times,” she agreed. “I hate being shot. It ruins so many dresses.”
He looked her over, moving away from his looming position to brush his hands over the dress, feeling the blood-soaked places and running his fingers very carefully over the healed wounds. “Someone did a good job. You can’t even tell there was damage here. To you, I mean. Your dress makes it pretty obvious.”
“Allayne is really good at speed healing. She has to do it enough.” She didn’t move away. His fingers were cold but his touch wasn’t unpleasant at all.
“You get shot enough that this is an issue?”
“We all do. Well, okay, both. Chitter doesn’t get shot much at all.”
“That’s because I, unlike you two, am clever and stay out of the line of fire.” Chitter stuck her jaw out and glared at Senga. “What were you thinking?“
“Well, let’s see,” Senga retorted, “’Ow, fuck, ow, ow, fuck, ow.’ Or did you mean before the guns came out? I was thinking ‘that door was way too easy and this place is way to quiet. If this isn’t a trap, I’m going to eat my hat.’”
“We were set up.” Chitter’s expression went strange, blank the way it did when she was looking at the numbers in her head. “It wasn’t bad intel, it wasn’t the sort of thing where they say ‘low threat’ because they’re not in the threat radius. If you thought it was a trap…”
“What are you into, Senga Monmartin?”
“Me? Everything I need to to get the job done. This was supposed to be an information-gathering mission, meet a nice man, talk to him a bit while Allayne did her thing and Chitter did hers. Like Chitter said, it was a trap. Someone figured out what we do and decided they wanted to set us up.”
“Not just for dying, either. Think about the way that part in the bathroom went.” Chitter was frowning at her phone. “If you had done things just a little differently, you would’ve ended up trapped with two corpses with the cops on the way.”
“Setting me up to be arrested is not exactly the same as setting me up to die,” Senga protested.
“But it might be enough to protest the will results,” Erramun pointed out.
“My cousins can’t put anything together that fast. They’re not their mother, not by a long shot.”
“So who else has a vested interest in seeing you dead or inconvenienced?” He leaned back against the counter, looking relaxed for the first time since she’d taken ownership of him.
“Who says it was her, tall, dark, and broody? Who says it’s not you? Come on, you’re her Bond Servant, if she dies, you’re miserable for ten minutes; if she ends up in jail, you’re miserable for years. Unless she releases you, and then you’re both eff-you-sea-kay fucked.”
“Are you always this eloquent?” he glowered down at her.
“Yep! That’s why Allayne and Senga do the social things and I sit in the van with my toys and keep them out of trouble.” She grinned up at him, unrepentant and pleased. “Could you move, by the way? I want some more soda.”
“And you do such a good job of keeping them out of trouble, too.”
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