Mika's Note: Where the hell did my chapter titles go? Somebody forgot them when she transferred things I think! LOL
“I think she’s lucky she didn’t get sued,” Albie was telling Bazooka over lunch. “Doesn’t matter these days that she and Red didn’t start it.”
Bazooka just grunted in response; he was a man of few words.
“No, that bitch is just lucky Ali didn’t break her into little pieces,” Andy put in, infuriated at the way Lockhart and Tracey had reacted to last weekend’s barroom brawl. “She’s more than a trained soldier, she’s practically a trained assassin and they just expect her to sit there and let the cow humiliate her?”
“Not our Ali,” Bazooka agreed.
“Or our Shana,” Dusty amended.
“Definitely not Shana,” Albie acknowledged. “Ali can be more dangerous, but Shana’s got the worst temper ever. Aw,” he whined when his phone rang, “what now?” He pulled it from his holster and frowned at the caller ID. “Yeah?”
“Hey,” Blake greeted him, “are you free? I need to talk to you.”
“Excuse me for a sec,” he told his lunch buddies. Once out of earshot, he muttered, “Okay, what’s up?”
“I’m about to go nuts.”
“Too late for ‘about’.”
“Ha ha, Albie. I’m serious. I never thought things could get so serious so fast, but I am miserable without your sister. I sneak as many phone calls and e-mails as I can, but it’s not the same. I need to see her. Hold her. You know.”
He did. “Yeah, I do. I just don’t know what I can do to help you or her.”
“Get me some time alone with her, please,” Blake begged. “I’ll be in town next month for that big charity thing. I know you guys will be there for security, my label’s told me that much.”
Albert though about it for a minute. “You do know that she’s in a bit of hot water over the um… incident with your ex, right?”
Blake frowned. “Yes, I heard. But she’ll still be there, right?”
“I honestly don’t know, but I don’t see how they can keep her out.”
“Good. Just get me a few minutes, I want more, but will settle for what I can get.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I can ask.”
“Yes, Mr. Stewart. Right down that hall and to your right,” Allyson instructed the towering, glowering musician.
“Excuse me, sir?” she asked.
“John, honey. Just John.”
“Yes sir!” she replied automatically. “I’m sorry, I meant John.” She blushed and shook her head. “I apologize I’ve…”
“Been in the military too long?” he finished for her.
“Yeah, that too.”
He graced her with one of his rare smiles. “Don’t worry about it,” he paused, “this time. But,” he teased threateningly, “next time…”
She smiled and waved him down the hallway.
“Boy, you sure know how to charm them all don’t you?” sneered a voice.
“Gee, Miss Morgan, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ali gave a mental eye roll to the barely-twenty-year-old blonde standing before her. “Down the hall, to the left, and the third door.”
Leslie grunted and stalked off in search of her table. Ali could barely contain her grin.
“I promise not to tell Stone you sent her to the Janitor’s closet,” a voice whispered in her ear, “if you promise not to smack me for telling Blake you were here tonight.”
“Ah crap, Albie! He wasn’t supposed to know.” She glared up at her brother. “Hell, I wasn’t even supposed to be here!”
“I know, babe, but he heard your voice on the two-way when I met him at the drop-off.” Albert shrugged helplessly. “I told him you were doing communications work tonight and wouldn’t be visible. Soo...” his voice trailed off.
“Soo… seeing as I can see his curly head over all the rest of these people, I guess I oughta split then.”
“Might be a good idea.” He cringed inwardly at breaking his earlier promise to Blake. Tried as he might, he was unable to find a way to get them any time alone.
“Yeah, right. If you ask me, it sucks.”
“Conveniently, no one asked you, Lieutenant.”
The pair turned to see General Stone directly behind them. “Yes sir. On my way to locate the communications and security command post, sir!” She gave them both a mock salute and high-tailed it out of eyesight.
“Now you,” Stone pointed at Albert, “take over her job.”
The general rolled his eyes and asked the ceiling silently, “Why me? Why?”
“All right, Blake, turn around,” Albert instructed.
Blake obeyed, allowing Albie to briefly frisk him for weapons and/or explosives. “I’m not your bubble-headed friend, you know. I’m not going to blow anything up.” At Albert’s grin, he continued. “And you’re not the one I had in mind to frisk me, either.”
“Yeah,” he replied in a falsetto not suited to him, “blue-eyed brunettes are so not my type.”
“You are so lucky you’re armed tonight.”
Grinning, “You’re dressing room is down this direction, second door on the left.”
“Thanks, I think.” Leaning in towards Albie, he whispered, “Where is she, really?”
At the look of desperation in Blake’s eyes, he let the grin slip. “Hanging out with our security out back. There’s no way to get to her. Not until later.” He caught the other man’s gaze and tried to smile. “I’m sorry. I tried.”
Blake sighed and leaned back. “Doesn’t matter anyway, does it?” Dejectedly, he stalked off.
“What?” Blake turned anxiously.
“I’ve got an idea…”
“Are you here with us tonight or not?”
“I’m here, Captain. What’s up?”
“You’ve been monitoring those video screens like it’s the end of the world or something.”
Shit! “No, not the end of the world. Just hoping…” For what? For him to appear out of nowhere and wave?
“Why are you even back here with us tonight? You should be out with the people. You’d blend in so much better than those bunch of grunts.” Jacob, their resident computer geek, commented.
“Yeah, but Stone and Lockhart don’t trust me.” Ali grinned suddenly. “And Tracey doesn’t trust him.”
“Him?” Captain Kruger asked. “Him who?”
She beamed as a familiar hat stopped in the middle of the busy floor area. “Him,” she tapped the screen as Blake grinned and waved.
“Blake,” Leslie questioned, coming up beside him and sliding her arm through his. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Waving!” He waved again and turned to his one-time girlfriend.
“To who?” She looked around, confused. “Everyone’s that way.” She pointed in the direction opposite of where he was facing, frown planted firmly on her face.
“I was… never mind.” He sighed and turned away from the surveillance cameras. “You look nice tonight, Lee.”
“Thanks, cutie. You’re not so bad yourself, ya know.”
He forced a smile and waded out into the sea of people in an attempt to find their seats.
“Stuff it, Kruger.”
“Yes, Captain,” Jacob Meyers cautioned, “just obey and be a good boy and you shouldn’t get hurt.”
“Not too badly anyway.” Ali flashed Kelly Kruger a playful smile and went back to monitoring the now Blake-less video screens. “Bitch!” She growled under her breath.
“No, Lee, I’m sure there was a mistake,” Blake said again, looking into the janitor’s closet and wondering.
“Oh, no I seriously doubt there was a mistake. That cow did it on purpose!”
Cow? “What do you mean?”
“That… woman… soldier… that was guarding you before. She was the one who sent me here.”
Good one, Ali. “I’m sure she was mistaken. Here, we’ll go get it figured out.” Blake directed her back towards Albie and his desk, pausing briefly to flash Ali a ‘thumbs up’ as he passed the surveillance cameras.
“Huh?” Turning, he saw Blake’s barely restrained grin and Leslie’s irate glare. “How may I help you this evening?”
“Are you her supervisor?”
“Her who, ma’am?”
“You know… her. The one who was here,” she waved angrily at the table-turned-desk, “before you.”
“Ah. Sorry, no. She’s my supervisor technically.”
“Maybe, but I am her supervisor, so to speak.”
Damn! “Caleb, its okay…” Albie began.
“What is the problem?” Lockhart asked, not really wanting to know. He listened intently, growing angrier by the moment. I knew better than to bring her here tonight. We just couldn’t risk not having her here either. When Leslie finished her rant, Caleb slapped Albert across the back of the head.
“Ouch! What was that for?” he asked, rubbing his skull.
“What part did you have in this?” Lockhart demanded.
“I’m not buying it. She’s not ever up to anything that doesn’t include you and/or Shana!”
Albie glanced at Blake and grinned. “I can think of a thing or two she’s been up to lately that I know for sure I had nothing to do with.” Blake suddenly decided to study a very interesting spot on the ceiling.
“Maybe not directly, but I know you two. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.”
“Speaking of which,” Blake interrupted. “Where’s Bazooka? I wanna stay clear.”
Leslie stared at her ex and opened her mouth, ready to question him when Lockhart interrupted.
“He’s outside. I know about his track record with you. I made a point to keep him… and Allyson, damn her… out of your hair tonight.” He turned to Leslie then. “Miss Morgan, please accept my apologies. I will insure that she is properly disciplined for this.”
“Thank you. Now, come on Blake. We’ve got to get ready.”
“I’ll show you to your dressing room, Miss Morgan.”
They both turned to see Bryan Tracey, arm out, waiting. “Yeah, why don’t you let him escort you, Lee?”
“Well,” she looked at Bryan and smiled sweetly, “okay.”
Caleb shook his head at the couple as they walked away. “Mr. Matson, do you need an escort as well?”
Knowing he wouldn’t get the one he wanted, he shook his head. “I’m fine.”
“Good. Looking forward to the performance tonight.” Blake nodded and started to walk off.
“So,” Albert began, “please explain to me why Ali’s not allowed to even talk to Blake and that ass is able to parade Leslie around? Hmm?”
“The situations are different.”
“Ah, so, what you’re saying is that because Tracey’s male, it’s okay to sleep with his charges but it’s not okay for Ali or Shana because they belong to you and him.”
“That is not what I meant and you know it!” Lockhart fumed. “You, of all people, know exactly why she isn’t allowed to do this!”
“It may not be what you meant, but it sure as hell is what you implied.” He stood up. “Now, if you don’t mind, everyone is signed in and ready to go. I’m going to my position to watch the show and watch for bad guys.”
Unable to refute his logic, Caleb kept his mouth shut. Still angry over the practical joke Ali, a senior officer, had pulled on one of their guests tonight, he stormed off to confront her, never noticing Albert and Blake walking off together.