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“Your wife should make you wear that uniform more often. It makes you look distinguished.”
Tim McConaway shot his partner a wry look as he slid into the chair across a café table from her. “Shut up, Commander.”
Brigid shook her head, smiling faintly. “How was the board meeting and the facilities tour?”
“The sooner we take the company private, the happier I’ll be,” Tim said as he set his hat down on the table. “I don’t mind the walk-throughs, but I’d like to lose the entire board of directors on a Lake Michigan excursion sometimes.”
“Oh, so it went that well.” She nudged his shin under the table. “Just suck it up, Tim. Your uncle’s right about them needing to see your face around there. God knows they’ve seen enough of AJ’s.”
“I really wish John could help with this crap.”
Brigid’s nose wrinkled. “Oh yes, that wouldn’t be awkward at all. All of a sudden your uncle adds someone to the company’s line of succession who—on the surface—has absolutely nothing to do with the family. Then someone all of a sudden takes a too-close look at a picture of the three of you together and starts adding shit up. Because you all totally need that kind of ridiculousness in your lives.”
He made a face. “Will you shut up and stop making sense?”
“Maybe later,” Brigid said, chair scraping against the wooden floor. “What are you drinking?”
“I already ordered it. They’re making it. Barista told me she’d bring it over.” He closed his eyes, fingertips tapping against the edge of the table. “You’re antsy and full of more snark than usual. What’s going on?”
Brigid settled in her chair again, frowning slightly. “You and Kate don’t have plans tonight, do you?”
“Did you somehow land a date this morning? Mazel tov.”
The look she shot him would have killed a lesser man. Her partner only quirked a brow in question and waited. Brigid sighed.
Sometimes, I really, really hate him.
It was a lie and she knew it.
“Remember the kid from the tunnels?”
“The one who shot the thing? Yeah, I remember.” Tim smiled at the barista who brought over his cup, nodding his thanks. The girl took one look at Brigid’s face and beat a hasty retreat, apparently deciding that maybe flirting with the hot guy—middle aged or not—in uniform wasn’t worth Brigid’s wrath. Tim, as always, was completely oblivious. “What about him?”
“Well, he tracked down your sister and then tracked down me at lunch today.” She watched his face, watched as Tim’s brows rose incrementally.
“Really,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “For what?”
“To talk,” Brigid said, taking a sip of coffee. “What else?”
“That wouldn’t explain why you just asked me if Kate and I have plans. We don’t, by the way, but if you screw up our plans to go see a show at the Chicago Theater on Friday night, she might murder you.”
“Duly noted. We’re meeting Chandler at nine tonight.”
Tim’s brows knit. “Chandler. Why’s that name familiar?”
“Jim’s problem child in New York.”
“Oh, right.” Tim tilted his head to one side, picking up his cup of coffee. “Any relation?”
“God, I hope not.” Brigid tapped her fingers against the side of her cup and shook her head. “He seems like a good kid, Tim, and this seems like the smart play. I’m pretty sure—no, I’m positive he had people watching. More than just the one who decided to join us for coleslaw and fries.”
“You were at Miller’s?”
“Not a lot of places to watch from there. I could round up Tony and take a look.”
Brigid grimaced. Antony Bridger’s postcognitive abilities had come in handy once or twice in the past, but she tried to limit most of his work to things off-world with the Portal Corps rather than terrestrial affairs. “No, I don’t think so—not yet, anyway. Let’s play this aboveboard and see what tonight’s like.”
“What, exactly, are we meeting him for?” Tim stretched, then edged his chair a little closer. “Kate’s going to ask, B. You know she’s going to ask and I’m not going to lie to her.”
“I wouldn’t ask you to lie to your wife,” Brigid said, waving a hand dismissively. “We’re going out on patrol with them.”
“They’re Hunters, Tim.”
His nose wrinkled, sarcasm as thick in his voice as she’d ever heard it. “Oh, she’s going to love that.”
Brigid deadpanned at him and he sighed.
“It’s just a statement of fact, B. I mention patrol and Hunters and she’s not going to like it.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what her history with them is—if she’s got any—but either way she’s not going to just quietly let me go haring off with them.”
Brigid glanced around. No one was listening, which was either a testament to how quietly—and somewhat obliquely—they were having this discussion or some spell that her partner had worked discreetly upon his arrival. She leaned closer anyway, wrapping both hands around her paper coffee cup. “How the hell is it any different from when you go off wandering on your own looking for vampires and other things that go bump in the night alone?”
“Supposedly, Hunters have a bad habit of locating trouble and that trouble escalating quickly.” He put up his hands as Brigid opened her mouth to protest. “Look, I asked her after you mentioned them to me the other day. It’s not my fault you didn’t ask her.”
“You could have told me some of this before now, Merlin.”
He gave a testy sigh and shook his head. “I’m sorry, okay?”
“Right.” She rubbed at her temple. “We’re supposed to meet them at Miller’s at nine. Tell Kate I’ll make it up to her.”
“What about the kids?”
“I talked to Mat and AJ already. Mat’s going to come over and keep an eye on things until I get home.”
“You might as well just have Kate head over to your place with Fiona,” Tim said. “That way she’ll know when we’re back.”
“It’s a school night. Don’t want to mess up anyone’s routine.”
One corner of Tim’s mouth quirked upward into a wry smile. “Other than my brother-in-law’s.”
Brigid smiled faintly. “Mat volunteered. I was going to ask John or your uncle.”
“You should probably not trust your children with my cousin.”
She laughed out loud. “Connor turned out fine.”
“Connor was a magus born,” Tim said softly, his expression and voice abruptly serious. “Your kids, B—”
“Haven’t manifested anything.” She gave him a weak smile. “And maybe they never will. Maybe they’ll be the normal ones in the middle of all of the crazy.” The smile faded. “So far as we know, Ross didn’t...” her voice faltered. Tim took her hand and squeezed.
“You okay, B?”
Brigid swallowed against the sudden lump in her throat. It had been the better part of a decade since Roswell Darbin-Kincaid’s murder, but sometimes the pain snuck up on her and knifed her in the kidneys like she’d buried him yesterday. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
“They’re great kids, B. Even if they never manifest anything. Even if they’re painfully normal.”
Her fingers tightened around his, a laugh bubbling up against her will. “I love you, Tim. I really do.”
“I know. And sometimes you hate me.” He squeezed her hand again before letting go. “Are you going to do your best friend duties and explain to my wife what we’ll be doing tonight?”
“Do I have to?”
“It’d be helpful.”
Brigid smiled wryly and nodded. “I’ll tell her, then. You just make sure you’re at Miller’s Pub at nine.”
“Are we going to scramble any backup?”
She considered the question for a moment before shaking her head. “No. Not tonight. Let’s trust their abilities and ours. Besides, they said that they try to keep a low profile. It’s not their territory and I guess it could go badly if they were discovered.”
Tim rolled his eyes. “Do me a favor and don’t mention that to my wife.”
“She’s not going to say no to me, Tim.”
“Just because she’s never said it before doesn’t mean she’s never going to say it.” He tossed back a slug of coffee and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds. “Tell John we’re going. He’ll probably be out anyway.”
“I’m not going to tear him away from a date so he can back us up.”
Tim waved a hand. “If his new boyfriend can’t deal with his sudden disappearances, then he’s not the right guy for him. It’s that simple.”
“Does John agree with you on that?”
“John knows how this works,” Tim said quietly. “He always has—better than you and I do, in some ways.”
Brigid winced. Tim was right, of course.
That didn’t make it any easier to take, unfortunately.
“Ridley would be the better choice,” she hedged.
“Maybe,” Tim agreed. “But John’s going to be out and about in the city anyway. Leave Ridley out of it. We keep him on call too much anyway.”
“Julia tell you that?”
He winced. “Julia might have mentioned that, yes.”
Brigid offered him a crooked smile. “All right. We’ll play it your way. But you get to deal with the angry gay man if we screw something up for him.”
“There’s not going to be anything screwed up,” Tim said confidently. “There’s not going to be any trouble, remember?”
She hoped that was true—but when had anything in their lives ever been simple?
There's another chapter ahead. Wes and Jo are in it.