Brighter Than the Sun Page 54

Donovan shot him a disgruntled look. “I may have strongly considered not letting any of my boneheaded brothers so much as breathe the same air as my wife, but she informed me that my Neanderthal thinking, however endearing, simply wouldn’t fly with her. And then she threatened to withhold sex from me until I saw the error of my ways.”

Joe choked and sputtered, his eyes watering as he hooted with laughter. He pictured quiet and sweet Evie glaring at Donovan and refusing to have sex with him, and he doubled over, holding his stomach as he howled.

“You mock my pain,” Donovan said in a wounded voice. “Just wait, Mr. Sensitive. Your time is coming. Laugh it up now. Enjoy it while you have the chance. Your time is so limited it’s not even funny. The hell of it is you won’t mind one fucking bit. You’ll be walking around meek and ball-less with a big ole smile on your face, swearing you love it.”

Joe grinned. “As long as the right woman is in possession of my balls, then nope, I won’t mind one damned bit.”

Donovan’s lips twitched and he slapped him on the back, ending the torture session. “Jesus, man, you take all the fun out of mocking you into oblivion. Geesh. You’re pathetic. You were supposed to be more of a challenge than this. It was your duty as last man standing.”

Joe gave him a two-finger salute and then joined his team, who were all looking at him strangely. Except Nathan, who knew all too well how much his twin’s life was changing—had already changed. He sighed. He only prayed he’d be able to make an announcement to his team soon. That would mean that Zoe was on board and that his relationship with her was a sure thing.

“Everything okay?” Nathan asked under his breath.

Joe sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah. I think so. I hope so. Hell, I have no fucking clue, and I won’t until tonight.”

“What happens tonight? Anything I can do to help?”

“Made a date with Zoe to have dinner at my house. Then I kissed her when I took her back to Ma’s yesterday afternoon. You know, after we’d already made dinner plans for tonight.”

Nathan cringed. “Uh-oh. This doesn’t sound good.”

Joe let out his breath. “Yeah. Tell me about it. She freaked. Started babbling a bunch of shit about not being good enough for me. That I deserved better. That she’d been sending mixed signals and that it was all her fault. Fuck. Even worse, she kept apologizing over and over. Every other statement was I’m so sorry. I felt about two fucking inches tall, man. And before I could correct that load of crap, she bolted and ran into the house. Jesus.”

“Damn,” Nathan said quietly. “Y’all still on for tonight?”

“Oh yeah,” he muttered. “Rusty promised me no matter what she had to do she’d have Zoe ready to go when I got there. I’m taking her at her word. Speaking of Rusty. You know of anything going on with her?”

Nathan sent him a puzzled look. “What the hell are you talking about? What makes you ask that?”

Joe sighed. “Just asking. I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s up with her. She’s not herself. Not acting like herself. But that’s all I know and I didn’t want to raise the alarm when it could just be my overactive imagination. I’m so mind fucked over this thing with Zoe that who knows what the hell I’m seeing.”

Sam called for attention, interrupting his conversation with Nathan. It was just as well since there wasn’t anything more to say, and if he had to speculate or worry any further on Zoe’s state of mind or on the state of their relationship, or lack thereof, he was going to lose his fucking mind and start barking at the moon.

“Allie’s got the floor for the next hour,” Sam announced. “She’ll be going over the steps in defusing three of the most common bombs used in domestic terrorist threats and attacks. Pay attention, boys and girls, because there will be homework, and there will be a test on this in a few days,” he said with undisguised amusement. “And we’ll meet back up tomorrow for the field lecture and demonstration part of this exercise. I’m being easy on you, cupcakes. Oh nine hundred sharp. It won’t take long, and yes, this is mandatory. You miss and your salary gets docked and you get sidelined. Just in case anyone is thinking of giving it a pass.”

There was a series of grumbles, flipping the bird and name-calling, and curses echoed through the war room. It was probably one of the very few times Garrett wasn’t threatened over his use of an F-bomb—or rather repeated uses of the F-bomb. For that matter, it was hard to separate out who was dropping the most since it came from so many directions.

“Jesus, what got up his ass?” Ryker grumbled. “I don’t remember him being such a tight-ass. I may be rethinking my employment.”

“Oh, I’ve got a good idea what got up his ass,” Skylar muttered, casting a look guaranteed to shrivel a man’s balls on contact in Allie’s direction.

Joe stifled his laughter and tried to adopt a stern look befitting a team leader. He failed. Miserably.

“He’s probably worried about Allie sticking around since we haven’t exactly had a lot of action in the last four weeks,” Edge murmured, interjecting his opinion. “So maybe this is his attempt to show her how serious we are. You know, because we can’t be cracking jokes when we have downtime. That would be highly improper.”

Swanny choked and then covered the sound with a cough, covering his mouth to also hide the not-so-straight face behind it. Nathan pressed his lips together but they still twitched suspiciously. Skylar snorted and rolled her eyes. Ryker emitted a chuckle that got him looks from the rest of the room.

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