It Happened One Wedding Page 30

He caught Sidney’s glare as they resumed their positions. “Save the look, Sinclair. You bit me first.”

She blushed as Simon stepped into the clearing.

Vaughn grinned. “Hey, bro. We were just talking about you.”

 • • •

FOR THE REST of the weekend, Sidney made sure she was never, ever alone again with Vaughn.

It wasn’t as difficult a task as she’d feared: between Isabelle, Simon, and Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, there were lots of people around, and with a little bit of finessing, Sidney made sure one of them was always around her. She and Isabelle went back to the hotel shortly after Simon found her and Vaughn in the clearing, and they didn’t return the next day until late morning, after the worst of Isabelle’s morning sickness had passed.

By the time they arrived at the house on Sunday, Vaughn was already up on the shed roof, hammering away. Simon joined his brother on the roof, the menfolk finished their project, and then they cleaned up.

During lunch, Sidney and Vaughn exchanged all of about two words—although she did catch him looking at her at one point when she brushed her hair off her shoulders. Luckily, the red mark on her neck had already disappeared—and with it, all traces of her strange, hot tryst with Vaughn in the woods.

A tryst, she vowed, that was never to be repeated.

After lunch, it was time to say good-bye and hit the road.

“I’m so glad you joined us this weekend,” Kathleen said, pulling Sidney in for a hug as they said their farewells on the driveway. Then she joined her husband on the front porch, and the two of them waved good-bye as Vaughn and Sidney’s cars pulled out of the driveway.

“And . . . scene,” Isabelle said, as the pretty white ranch grew smaller in Sidney’s rearview mirror. She exhaled in relief. “I think we pulled it off. Not to get all Sally Fields here, but I think they liked me.” She looked over gratefully at Sidney. “I hope the weekend wasn’t too boring for you.”

For a split second, Sidney was tempted to tell her sister everything. So here’s a funny thing: I kissed Vaughn. But then Isabelle would want to know whether the kiss had meant anything—and since it absolutely, one-hundred percent had not, Sidney figured it was best not to mention it at all.

“Not at all. It was fun,” she assured Isabelle.

Isabelle reclined her seat and closed her eyes, mumbling something about taking a nap. With the radio on low, Sidney followed Vaughn’s car through the now semi-familiar maze of woods, hills, and valleys that eventually led to the highway.

After they’d driven for about fifteen minutes, Isabelle sat up. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Sidney looked over. “Do you need me to pull over?”

“Yes—hurry.”

Sidney came to a stop at the side of the road, and Isabelle scrambled out of the car and ran for some trees. Ahead of them, Vaughn’s car slowed down, did a U-Turn, and came to a stop parallel to Sidney’s, on the other side of the road.

Simon got out, with a sheepish smile. “She sometimes gets a little carsick,” he said to Vaughn.

“Mmm-hmm,” Vaughn said through the open driver’s side window.

Simon trotted off toward the trees to tend to Isabelle, who was bent over and doing her thing.

Sitting in their cars on opposite sides of the road, Sidney and Vaughn looked at each other, neither of them making any move to get out.

Then they both turned away, the gray concrete highway a comforting gap between them.

Twelve

TWO WEEKS LATER, Vaughn made his debut appearance as “Mark Sullivan,” a gun buyer who was eager to make the acquaintance of Officer Pritchett and his gang of corrupt cops.

Per his instructions, Batista had set up the meeting for that Friday afternoon at a diner in West Town. As Mark Sullivan, a man who made a pretty penny doing shady things, Vaughn looked like a guy who spent his free time hanging out at upscale strip clubs. He sported dark scruff along his jaw, a designer suit and Italian loafers, and a flashy Rolex on his wrist.

Pritchett showed up right on time, with two beefy twentysomething guys in tow. Unbeknownst to the three police officers, Vaughn also had brought guests to this party—a whole slew of them.

Crooked cops were considered dangerous targets. In addition to being armed, they had everything to lose if caught. For some criminals, going to prison was simply part of life on the streets, practically a rite of passage. But for government and law enforcement officials, being investigated by the FBI meant the end of the world—and if someone thought his world was ending, there was no end to the foolish or dangerous things he could do.

Because of that, Vaughn and Huxley had taken no chances with this meeting. Huxley and three of their squad mates stood by in cars parked close to the bar, and all agents would be listening to every word of Vaughn’s conversation via the pin-sized microphone he had attached to one of the buttons on his shirt. Also joining them was a special operations group, a team of eight agents armed with heavier weapons, who had followed Pritchett and his two cohorts—already identified as Officers James Mahoney and Ali Ortiz—to this meeting, and had confirmed that the three police officers were armed only with standard firearms and didn’t have any further backup waiting in the wings.

Pritchett spotted Vaughn at his table and walked over with officers Ortiz and Mahoney in tow. After a few minutes of posturing and feeling each other out, Vaughn and Pritchett got down to business.

He told Pritchett that he’d had a few problems transporting guns into the Chicago city limits, and that he’d been intrigued when Batista had told him about the smuggling business the cop was running on the side.

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