Lost & Found, PASS, Book Four
Even with a degree in psychology and a keen ability to read people, security specialist Bree Graves can’t seem to get a bead on her boss. There was a time she thought she had him figured out but she’d been wrong. Still, she loves her job with PASS and her team has become her family. However, she doesn’t realize how much she needs them until her latest assignment puts her on the radar of a dangerous stalker.
For Yanis Mazur the safety of his PASS team is paramount. Even if that means sacrificing his personal life. Not only did he spend years building his security firm, but also the shield protecting his emotions. Yet when the one person who could breach his walls goes missing during an assignment he sent her on, he’s willing to risk both his business and his heart to get her back.
A victim of obsession, betrayal, and violence, Bree has no choice but to put her faith in the man who almost broke her.
“It’s not a question.”
Yanis Mazur, long-time boss and perpetual pain in my ass, pulls up that arrogant right eyebrow of his.
“That’s not in my job description.”
I fist my hands on my hips. Not that I really believe it would in any way intimidate Yanis, not much does.
“It’s an assignment within an existing contract that requires an operative. That’s you.”
He dismisses me as he goes back to scribbling notes on a legal pad.
That really pisses me off and I lean down on his desk.
“Get someone else to do it.”
He emits what sounds like a growl and I watch with some measure of satisfaction as his nostrils flare. Reluctantly his gaze meets my glare.
“Who would you suggest to be an appropriate candidate to double for a thirty-eight-year-old, five-foot-nothing brunette then? Dimi? At six four and with full-on facial hair? Or maybe Shep, black and bald?”
I don’t want to attend a Denver movie premiere, I don’t want to pretend to be Bobby Lee Rose, and I really don’t want to wear a goddamn dress.
Our client, Boulder Records, hired us last year to provide additional security for some of their A-list artists at certain public events. Now one of those A-listers—country singer Bobby Lee Rose—has landed herself in a private rehab facility for alcohol and substance abuse. Boulder Records desperately wants to keep that information under wraps, so they’ve requested a double to attend a highly publicized movie premiere in her place. Bobby Lee’s latest hit is also the movie’s theme song and she is expected to make an appearance.
I have the unfortunate honor to be five foot two, brunette, and somewhat similar in shape and looks to the singer. It saves the record label from having to hire an actress to play the role, thus reducing the risk Bobby Lee’s true whereabouts will be found out.
I see the reasoning behind it, but I’m not an actress. I’m a security specialist, and this assignment forces me well out of my comfort zone.
“No one’s gonna buy it,” I try as a last-ditch effort.
“They will. The right clothes, hair, makeup; you’ll be a dead ringer,” he reassures me. “Besides, Roddy Cantrell is going to be by your side.”
Ugh. Bobby Lee’s on-again, off-again boyfriend is not exactly an incentive. The guy is a sleezeball. Also a country singer for the same label, but more known for his collection of famous conquests than he ever was for his music. If I were Bobby Lee I might’ve started self-medicating too.
“Nobody better ask me to sing,” I grumble, knowing I’m beat.
His mouth stretches in one of his rare grins, unsettling my equilibrium.
“If anyone asks questions, you have laryngitis. Bobby Lee just finished her tour; it wouldn’t be a stretch.”
With that, Yanis turns back to his laptop and this time I heed the cue and take my leave.
“Oh, one more thing,” he calls after me as I walk out of his office. “Lena has your ticket. Sue is expecting you tonight and picking you up at the airport in Denver. You’ll be staying at the house in Deer Creek.”
I grind my molars so hard my jaw hurts as I make my way back to my desk.
Sue Paxton is Bobby Lee’s personal assistant, and what Yanis so modestly calls the house in Deer Creek is in fact an ostentatious gated mansion about forty-five minutes out of Denver, in the middle of nowhere. I’d rather stay at a hotel in town so I can be on my way home on the first flight out after I make my appearance.
I spend the next few hours at my desk, working on stuff I’d hoped to be able to do this weekend. Not like I have much of a personal life anyway. Not even here at the office where only Yanis and Radar, our computer specialist, have a space of their own. Most days I share the large office space with my colleagues, Hutch and Dimi. Even Kai and Shep, who take care of most of our international assignments, have desks in the bullpen. I’ve learned to wear noise-cancelling earbuds, play a rainfall soundtrack, and keep my head down when I need to concentrate.
A hand appears in front of my face and I swing around in my seat to find Lena waving a ticket at me. I pull out my earbuds.
“If you still need to pack, you need to leave now,” she says, a stern look on her face.
“What time is?”
“Plane leaves in an hour. You need to hustle.”
It’ll take me ten minutes to get home, five to pack, and fifteen to get to the airport. I’m going to have to run.
I make it onto the plane with just seconds to spare and the annoyed flight attendant waves me to my seat. I shove my pack under my seat and quickly buckle up. It’s only an hour flight and I spend almost more time navigating Denver Airport—even with just a carry-on—to locate Sue.
She only has me beat by a few inches but just like me, Bobby Lee’s PA works hard at being inconspicuous, which makes her hard to spot in a crowd. Dirty blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail matching my own, nondescript clothing, and a pair of sensible shoes make her blend in. Anything to defer attention away from her and toward her high-maintenance employer.
“We have to make a stop at Roz Taylor to fit your dress.”
She starts talking when we’re still ten feet apart.
“Hello to you too.”
She almost looks surprised.
“Oh, right, hi. Sorry, force of habit.”
“So…a dress? Do I have to?”
“Sorry,” she starts, not looking in the least apologetic. “It was commissioned from the designer six months ago for this purpose.”
I let out a sigh.
“Fine. But I hate heels, can I at least wear flats?”
That earns me a look of abject horror.
“Roz would have a heart attack. The dress was intended to wear with cowboy boots. Standard two-inch heel, can you handle that?”
I nod. What a relief, I’d envisioned myself teetering across the red carpet on a pair of stilettos.
Roz turns out to be a matronly, graying woman, who looks more like someone’s grandmother than the hottest, up-and-coming designer, as Sue claimed her to be on the way here.
The dress she fits me into is an old-style barmaid’s dress. My B-cup tits almost hit my chin when she cinches up the corset that creates an impressive waist on my less than hourglass figure. Tough to breathe, but all I have to do is walk from the car to the theater, sit down in a chair for the two hours or so the movie will take, and then someone can cut the contraption off me.
Forty-five minutes later, we walk out of the studio to Sue’s car. Roz is going to drop by the house a few hours before the event to help me ‘finish the look.’ I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure I want to. They whispered something about big hair and a smoky eye while I was in the dressing room putting my own clothes back on. I have my fingers crossed they were talking about somebody else.
I also have instructions to eat light, since the dress is tight on me and I can’t be bloated. In my line of work, you eat when you can and you do it hearty. Never know when the next meal will be. My request to stop at My Brother’s Bar to pick up a Johnny Burger is nixed in favor of a salad from Parsley I don’t think could sustain a gerbil.
I’m in for a long weekend.
By the time I get back from my meeting with a new contact at a vineyard out near Palisade, Bree’s Jeep is gone. I’d hoped to catch her before she left, maybe give her a ride to the airport and smooth things over with her.
As usual, when it comes to Bree my judgment is clouded. I knew this assignment would push her well out of her comfort zone. I also knew she’d balk, and if I’m honest with myself, that was part of the reason I was blunt with her. I wanted to see that fire. Wanted to know if it was still there, hidden underneath years of being the calm and levelheaded member of this company, keeping the rest of us in check.
Bree has made herself invisible, in more ways than one, since I first laid eyes on that fiery ball of energy about fifteen or so years ago. My God, she was something else. All opinion, all passion, and so damn happy just to be alive, you couldn’t help but be drawn to her.
And I had been, like a moth to her flame.
Until I snuffed it out.
Lena is still behind her desk.
“Shouldn’t you be heading out?”
“I will be, right after I finish this report for Bree.”
“Talking about Bree, did she get off on time?”
Lena does one of those slow head turns, and when her eyes hit me, they’re sparkling. Damn woman always has her antennae up. Little escapes her, which can be a pain in my ass, but it’s also what makes her invaluable to this office. She keeps us all in check and on schedule.
“Why, yes. Last minute, of course, but I had Radar check to see if she made her flight and she checked in.”
I start walking away when I hear her behind me.
“She didn’t seem happy about going, though.”
“Tough,” I say without turning around, and I hear her soft giggle as I make my way to my office.
The bullpen is empty, both my brother and Hutch already home with their women. Even Radar’s office is empty. Until recently, he’d almost always be the last to leave, but since he hooked up with Hillary that’s changed.
Guess I’m happy they’re happy, but this domestic bliss shit seems to be infectious, and I’ll be damned if I get caught up in the epidemic. Someone’s got to keep their wits about them.
I distract myself with work and barely even acknowledge Lena when she sticks her head in the door to announce she’s leaving. My discussion with the owner of the new vineyard still fresh in my mind, I start putting a proposal together to protect against the recent wave of vandalism their business has seen since opening. It works for a while, but then my thoughts start drifting.
Jesus, we were both young. Young and cocky as all get out. I’d just started up PASS the year before and Bree had been my first hire. She’d freelanced for GFI Investigations, a company run by Gus Flemming I signed on with after leaving the force. Not only did she come highly recommended by Gus, but I had opportunity to see her in action a few times and had been impressed.
She hadn’t disappointed—in any way—and it hadn’t been until…
Not doing that now. No trips down memory lane. Not with an entire weekend open before me without one or another crisis to occupy my time and my mind.
Instead, I pick up my phone and dial while I shut down my computer and turn off my desk lamp.
“Been a while,” she answers.
She chuckles warmly.
“No, actually. Perfect timing. Just got an offer accepted that’ll net me six figures, so I have cause for celebration. What did you have in mind?”
I walk through the office and turn off lights before stepping outside, my keys in hand.
“I haven’t eaten. Fancy a late bite somewhere?”
“Ale House? I’ll pick you up in ten?”
I hang up and get behind the wheel of my Yukon.
Fuck, what am I doing?
Megan Denny is the real estate agent, who helped me find a property less than ten minutes from the office a couple of years ago, where I’ve since built my house. I bumped into her again at a function a little over a year ago and spent an enjoyable night. That turned into an occasional hookup. I really can’t call it much more than that. We scratched each other’s itch.
No ties, that was understood. At least I thought it was until I recommended her to Radar when he was looking for a place. That was a mistake on my part because she took that to mean I wanted to take whatever it was we had to a different level. I didn’t.
She’s a nice woman. Good company over an occasional meal, a good time in bed—hers and never mine—but nothing more than that. She started calling more frequently and I started answering less. I haven’t actually seen her in a couple of months.
Calling her was a knee-jerk reaction, because of the direction my thoughts were taking.
They call that jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
As I pull up to Megan’s place, I already know this night is not going to end the way she thinks it will.
And that’s on me.