“Then, can I shoot you?” I asked. He rolled his eyes, and I held up my hands. “I’m just trying to understand my role in all of this.”

“Travis doesn’t do well when he doesn’t have choices. If he thinks he could lose Abby over it, he’ll fight. Losing her for lying or losing her because he’s in prison aren’t great choices. He might turn down the deal.”

“I don’t think that’s an adequate word to describe the way he feels about her. Threatening him with losing her is like threatening his life.”

Maddox considered that. “Drama is the nature of their relationship.”

“Trent has organized a surprise bachelor party the night before in my hometown—Eakins, Illinois.”

“I’ve heard of it,” I said. When Maddox shot me a confused look, I continued, “I’ve driven by the exit a few times on my way to and from Chicago.”

Maddox nodded. “The next day, we’ll drive to O’Hare International Airport and then fly from there to St. Thomas. I’ll have Constance email you the dates and itinerary.”

I had mixed feelings about returning home so quickly after leaving. “Okay.”

“Like I’ve mentioned, we’ll be posing as a couple. My family believes I’m in marketing, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

I blinked. “Okay. I assume we’ll be sharing a hotel room in Eakins and in St. Thomas.”

He cleared his throat, obviously surprised at my reaction. “Thank you, Agent Lindy.”

Turning on my heels to leave his office, I was aware of everything—how fast I walked, the way my arms swayed, even how straight my posture was. I didn’t want to give him anything. I didn’t know myself how I felt about the upcoming trip, and I certainly didn’t want him to speculate.

When I returned to my office, I shut my door and nearly collapsed into my chair. I crossed my legs at the ankles and hoisted them onto my desk.

Agent Sawyer’s knuckles tapped on the door, and he expectantly stared at me through the glass wall. I waved him away.

Maddox had been glad I had transferred to San Diego, and the S.A.C. had thought I lacked finesse—even less than Fuck Off Val or Agent Davies the Slut. I looked down at my crisp light-blue button-down blouse and knee-length skirt.

I have motherfucking finesse. Just because I speak my mind means I’m not tactful?

My whole face flushed red with anger. I thought the days of women in the Bureau being called breast-feds and split-tails were over. Most male agents making sexist remarks would be quickly shut down by other male agents, even when they weren’t aware of my or any other female’s presence.

Lack finesse? I’m going to lack his finesse all over the fucking squad room.

I covered my mouth even though I hadn’t sworn out loud. They might have a point.

The landline’s shrill ring bleated twice, and I held it to my ear. “Lindy.”

I sat up tall even though he couldn’t see me.

“There’s one more reason you’re a good candidate, one I didn’t mention to the S.A.C.”

“I’m positively on the edge of my seat,” I said, monotone.

“We’re posing as a couple, and I…think you’re the only female agent who would be comfortable enough with me to play the part.”

The line was silent for a solid ten seconds.

“I’m kidding. Good to know it’s not solely because the S.A.C. thinks I have no class.”

“Let’s get one thing straight. The S.A.C. didn’t say that, and neither did I.”

“That’s not what I meant. I would throat-punch someone if he ever said anything like that about you.”

Now, it was my side of the line that was quiet. “Th-thank you.” I didn’t know how else to respond.

“Be on the lookout for that email from Constance.”

I put the phone on its base and returned my ankles to their previous position on my desk, pondering the trip we would take in seven weeks. I was going to be spending several nights alone with Maddox, posing as his girlfriend, and I wasn’t at all upset about it even though I wished I were.

I tried not to smile. I didn’t want to smile, so I frowned instead, and it was the biggest lie I’d told since telling Jackson—and myself—that I was happy with him in Chicago.

Val lightly knocked on the glass with one knuckle and then tapped her watch. I nodded, and she walked away.

I wasn’t sure how much Maddox wanted me to share. Keeping the secrets about our first night and my purpose in Squad Five was hard enough. Unfortunately for me, Val was my only friend in San Diego, and postulation happened to be her superpower.

MY FINGERS KNOTTED IN MY HAIR in frustration as I struggled to focus on the words on the screen. I’d been staring at my computer for more than two hours, and my vision was beginning to blur.

The blinds on the exterior windows were closed, but the sunset had slipped through the slits and then burned out hours before. After studying Travis’s case file, I’d spent the rest of the evening looking for ways to get him out of prison time for the fire, but using him as an asset was not just the best idea. It was the only idea. Unluckily for Travis, his brother was so good at his job that the Bureau felt adding another Maddox would only be beneficial. So, he wasn’t only an asset. He would be recruited.

A knock sounded, and Agent Sawyer slipped a file into the metal holder screwed on the front of my door. The holder was there so that agents wouldn’t have to bother me with every approval request, but Sawyer opened the door just enough to poke his head into my office, a bright white Cheshire smile on his face.

“I know,” I said, resting my chin on the heel of my hand. I didn’t take my eyes from the screen.

“I thought maybe you’d like to get dinner somewhere. You’ve got to be starving.”

Maddox stepped into my office, cool and pleasant to me, and then he glowered at Sawyer. “Agent Lindy and I have a meeting in two minutes.”

“A meeting?” Sawyer said, chuckling. Under Maddox’s intense stare, his smile faded. He smoothed down his tie and then cleared his throat. “Really?”

“Good night, sir,” he said before disappearing down the hall.

Maddox ambled to my desk and sat in one of the club chairs, casually leaning back with both of his elbows perched on the arms.

“We don’t have a meeting,” I said, my eyes on the monitor.

“You made me his boss. You’ve got to let him speak to me at some point.”