It Happened One Wedding Page 11

“Who’s Vaughn?” Trish asked.

“Simon’s brother. And you are not going to believe this.” She filled Trish in on all the details about her and Vaughn’s Meet So-Not-Cute at the coffee shop and their awkward reunion at dinner with Isabelle and Simon.

“An FBI agent, huh?” Trish’s expression turned sly. “Is he foxy?”

“That whole story, about the strange coincidence, and my glorious Speech of Many Insults, and the fact that I’m going to be stuck running into this dude forever, and that’s your first question? ‘Is he foxy?’” Sidney shook her head. “Trishelle . . . on behalf of womankind, I was expecting a more enlightened discourse.”

Trish simply waited.

“Totally foxy,” Sidney said. Hell, Trish was going to see him at the wedding, there wasn’t much sense in denying it. “When he walked up to my table, my first thought was Criminy. Unfortunately, then he spoke.”

Trish threw her arm around Sidney. “Somewhere out there, waiting for you, is the total package. A Criminy guy who’s just looking for his Ms. Right to settle down with.”

Sidney smiled at that, not wanting to ruin the mood. But the pragmatist in her said not to pin her dreams on that. Actually, the pragmatist in her said not to pin her dreams on any man, Criminy or otherwise.

Such a skeptical bitch these days, her inner pragmatist. But not a fool.

Never again a fool.

Four

ACROSS TOWN AT the Chicago FBI building, Vaughn rode the elevator up to the twelfth floor with his partner, Special Agent Seth Huxley. They’d just returned from lunch and were on their way to meet their boss, the special agent in charge—or “SAC” as he was referred to around the office—about a new investigation.

“Who’s it going to be this time? The mayor?” Huxley asked, being wry.

“Hope not. I like the guy,” Vaughn said. Although in his line of work, he’d learned to never trust any politician’s public persona.

In the past year, he and Huxley had developed something of a specialty in undercover sting operations involving dirty government officials—part of the U.S. Attorney’s fight against corruption in the city of Chicago. Over the course of the last twelve months, they’d taken down a state senator, a state representative, and three aldermen, all for bribery. On top of that, they’d recently arrested an Illinois state prison guard who’d been selling assault rifles to ex-felons.

In his eight years with the FBI, Vaughn had worked on several different squads before being transferred to white-collar crime. Nick McCall, Vaughn’s boss, had been the most senior undercover agent on the squad before being promoted to special agent in charge two years ago, and the office had needed to fill Nick’s former spot with an agent, like Vaughn, who had similar undercover experience.

All FBI special agents were qualified to handle brief “walk-on” roles—undercover jobs in which the agent had only a couple of interactions with the suspects. But as the only agent on the white-collar crime squad who’d gone through undercover school at Quantico, Vaughn was the go-to guy whenever an investigation required a more extensive UC role. Which was fine with him—he found the work to be interesting and challenging, and he also liked the behind-the-scenes planning that came with every investigation. Whenever he took on a new identity, he needed to think about how his character would act, what he would look like, what he would wear, the kind of car he would drive and, if necessary, the type of gun he would carry. By all outward appearances, he needed to be whatever bad-guy type he was playing—because without that attention to detail, he could blow the entire investigation. Or get himself killed.

Standing in the elevator, Vaughn fought back a smile while watching Huxley carefully adjust the pocket square in the breast pocket of his custom-tailored suit. Unlike his fastidious partner, Vaughn had neither a pocket square nor a custom-tailored suit. In fact, on many days he didn’t even have a tie, having yanked it off in annoyance by ten A.M.

He’d been skeptical when Huxley had first been assigned as his partner two years ago. All he’d known at the time was that the younger agent had gone to Harvard Law School, joined the Chicago white-collar crime squad immediately after graduating from Quantico, and wore Ralph Lauren shower shoes in the FBI locker room.

Yep.

But he’d since come to see why the SAC had put them together. Vaughn’s undercover assignments involved a lot of variables and unknowns, and the best way to handle those variables and unknowns was to plan for every possible contingency. That was where Huxley came in—undoubtedly, he was the most organized, efficient, and detail-oriented agent Vaughn had ever met. Because of that, surprisingly, their partnership actually . . . worked. Vaughn was the front man out in the field, assuming various undercover roles, while Huxley deftly micromanaged all the behind-the-scenes details.

“We start training today,” Vaughn said.

The elevator arrived at the twelfth floor and they both stepped out.

“Morgan is going to meet us in the locker room?” Huxley asked.

Vaughn nodded. “Six o’clock.” A week ago, he’d declared that he and his closest friend, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cade Morgan, were going to run in the Chicago triathlon. He’d made this decision for two reasons: one, he enjoyed pushing himself physically, and Cade, a former college football star, was of a similar mind-set; and two, he’d sensed that Cade had needed some sort of activity to distract him ever since his formerly estranged father had passed away after a tough eleven-month battle with brain cancer. Cade had jumped quickly on the triathlon idea, and then Huxley had come on board, and today the three of them would begin an eleven-week training program for the big day.

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