Hacking the Hacker
Author’s Note: Dear Reader, This scene takes place sometime after Sandra and Alex’s 1-year wedding anniversary.
Friday’s Horoscope: A confession will lead to a very surprising turn of events. When faced with the improbable, sometimes you just need to press the button.
“I’ve always wanted to taser someone.”
The clackety-clack of the keyboard stopped. Though Alex didn’t glance up from his work and his facial expression hadn’t altered, I knew I’d surprised him.
“Is this on one of your lists?” he asked; his cobalt irises looked eerie, the light from the computer screen giving them the appearance of glowing orbs.
“It is, actually. It’s on my Things To Do Before I Have Children Because They Might Get Me Arrested list.”
I’d made a list, shortly after our one-year anniversary, of the top ten things I loved about being married to Alex Greene. But then I found ten wasn’t nearly long enough, so I decided to make it a top one hundred list instead. After struggling to fit everything within the confines of one hundred, I gave up and decided it would just be a list with no end.
Although the ranking was sacred.
This led me to create other numbered lists. And, because Alex thought it was hilarious, he kept a list of all my lists.
“Really…? Taser someone?” he asked, resuming his typing. “I find that hard to believe.”
“No. It’s true. I’ve always wanted to do it.”
He shook his head. “Nah. You’re too empathetic. You wouldn’t be able to purposefully hurt someone.”
“I would.” I decided not to tell him about the time I’d pistol-whipped a thug in Elizabeth’s old apartment. It hadn’t come up yet, and I was saving it for a time when I wanted to shock the hell out of him. “I would do it if that someone were a criminal.”
Alex’s answering smile was roguish. “I’m a criminal.”
“No, you were a criminal. And you know what I mean. Someone in the middle of a crime.”
“I could be in the middle of a crime right now.”
I glowered at him, setting my coffee down on the breakfast bar. “I mean a violent criminal in the middle of a violent crime—like assault or armed robbery or…kidnapping. If I came upon someone in the middle of a violent crime, I could totally taser the hell out of that person.”
He was silent, his eyes still on the screen of his laptop, but now he was moving his wireless mouse around and clicking like mouse clicking was a contest.
I sipped my coffee, studied his handsome face, and decided that I loved him more every second I spent with him. I wondered briefly how that was possible.
Then I allowed my imagination to wander; I pictured tasering a violent criminal. I couldn’t do it if the guy was just standing there or had surrendered. Alex was right about that. But if I felt threatened, or was trying to stop her/him, or if I were saving another person, then I knew I’d have the tits for the job.
“I could totally do it,” I said to the room, nodding to myself. “I would do it.”
His gaze narrowed on the screen, then he lifted just his eyes, trapping me with a stare that looked both challenging and enthusiastic.
“What time do you get off tonight?”
“Depends on what time you get me off tonight.” I winked at him.
I was pleased to see Alex grin then roll his eyes. “God, I love you.”
I laughed like an evil person at his reaction, then volunteered, “I can get off work as early as four, why?”
“Let’s go to the Chicago Museum of Art. They’re having a special exhibition of Monet.”
“Monet? Impressionists? You don’t like impressionists. You told me they look like finger paintings.” I looked at him askance, then gulped the rest of my coffee.
“Humor me. We’ll get cake after.”
“You know I love cake. But if we keep eating cake at this rate, my increasing bottom size will require a new wardrobe.”
“I’m good with that.”
Now it was my turn to roll my eyes, but I couldn’t help my smile. I loved this about Alex. He didn’t seem to care if I was fit or flabby; every change in my body got him excited. After we married I developed a tummy pooch and the very real beginnings of love handles. He loved it, loved them. He’d grab and bite and smack my soft parts during lovemaking and growl his approval.
I didn’t love it because I felt unhealthy, so I started seeing a personal trainer and got mad fit for a period of time. He loved that, too. He exploited my newfound strength and flexibility, and—after borrowing Janie’s illustrated guide to the Kamasutra—we’d been extremely adventurous.
Currently the pendulum was swinging in the other direction. It was my birthday month, and I’d always had a tendency to celebrate by eating dessert after every meal. As well, my trainer was off climbing some mountain in Timbuktu (or thereabouts), so I’d stopped going to the gym because I was, at heart, lazy and hated exercising for the sake of exercising.
“Where my bottom is concerned, I think you’re good with anything and everything,” I said, lifting my eyebrows meaningfully.
“That’s true.” I saw him shrug and felt his eyes move over my body as I hopped off my stool and crossed to the sink. “As long as it’s your bottom.”
My automatic smile was a little shy and a whole lot goofy, his words caused a spreading warmth from my chest to my forehead and stomach and fingertips.
He was so good at catching me off guard with these lovely little comments. The best part was that he said them so nonchalantly, like he had no idea they were compliments. Rather, to him it was just plain honesty, and that made the words a gift.
After rinsing my cup and basking in the glow of his impromptu and unassuming admission, I walked around the counter and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He turned to meet me, and before I could withdraw, his hands grabbed my hips to stay my retreat, bringing me between his legs.
“I’ll meet you at the museum at four thirty?” he said, his lovely voice lovely and…just lovely.
I smiled, again shy and goofy, and placed my hands on his broad shoulders. “Uh-huh.”
He pulled me closer, kissed my neck, then whispered in my ear, “Then after we’ll have cake.”
“Uh-huh.” I nodded then shivered because his hot breath tickled me.
He nibbled on my jaw, his hands sliding up my sides. I pressed myself into his palms and sighed, “I’m going to be late. Being late, I can’t abate or profligate. If I’m late I’ll have to stay, and you’ll wait, as we have a very important date.”
Alex exhaled a laugh, nuzzling my neck, then lifted his head and gave me a fast kiss. “Nice rhyme.”
I squeezed his shoulders and stepped away, reaching for my bag and coat. “See you at eight-”
“Yes, but eight rhymes with late. If you’d let me finished, I was going to say, see you at eight divided by two plus thirty, mate.” Walking backwards, I gave him a salute.
“My wife is crazy.” He folded his arms and watched me back toward the hallway. He wasn’t smiling—not with his mouth—rather he was just looking me with his dark blue eyes, all intense and focused. I knew I had to go, but like most mornings I didn’t really want to. I was under the Alex love spell, and while in his vicinity, I mock-seriously considered leaving real life behind and abandoning all my responsibilities in favor of marathon make-out sessions.
Not really…but sorta…but not really…but sorta.
“You love my crazy. It makes excellent fig chutney.” I turned, grabbed my coat, and opened the door to leave, a big fat smile on my face.
“Looking forward to you getting off.” I heard him call after me, and I laughed—happily and stupidly in love.
I was late.
I was a full hour late, and that meant the museum was twenty minutes from closing.
I’d texted Alex and suggested we meet at the cake place and forego the museum, but he insisted that we go anyway. I found him waiting for me outside of the building at the bottom of the steps. He stood out for several reasons.
First, he was the only person not staring at his phone; rather, he was people watching. Second, he was—by far—the sexiest man in the world (to me), therefore he stood out like a stripper at Sunday service.
And third, people had given him a wide radius of personal space. He’d grown back his faux Mohawk at my request after having a respectable haircut for over a year. This plus his large frame, dark jeans, black boots, black T-shirt, and general air of don’t fuck with me typically repelled strangers.
As soon as he spotted me, he straightened from where he’d been leaning and jogged over. In a rush, he pulled me in for a fast kiss then thrust something in my hands.
“Here. Put this on.”
I glanced down at the object; it was a black T-shirt. I placed my bag on the ground and shrugged into the shirt, but I didn’t get a chance to read it because Alex grabbed my bag and my hand and tugged me toward the entrance to the museum.
“We have to hurry.” He said without looking back at me. “Are you okay to jog in those shoes?”
“Sure…” I could and I would; but I’d pay for it later. I gave my sky-blue heels a weary once over, then ended up running after Alex. Apparently, his definition of jogging was a sprint.
We dashed into the museum, raced through the lobby, and didn’t pause to pay.
“Wait, what about-” I sputtered in protest.
“Already done, hurry.”
We climbed the stairs two at a time, and Alex pulled out his cell phone. While mounting the steps, he touched out a message then stuffed the cell back in his pocket.
I was breathing heavily and definitely sweating when we stopped just inside a gallery that looked very much like all the others. Alex spun suddenly, and I collided with his chest. He reached for my arms to steady me, his eyes studying my face.
“Are you okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Fine. Water.”
“Need water.” I fanned myself, unable to manage long sentences.
He grinned. “We’ll have time for that later; come stand over here.”
Alex reached for my hand again and pulled me to a bench in the middle of the room. I thought he wanted me to sit on it, so I moved to do just that.
“No, no, no—you can’t sit yet. Stand here, like this.” He positioned me next to the bench, angling my shoulders very precisely toward the open doors we’d just entered.
I glared at him because, though the wheels were sometimes slow, the gears in my head just clicked, and I caught on that he was definitely up to something. I glanced down at my T-shirt and read the white lettering. It said, Tasered Anyone Today?
“What’s going on?”
Alex lifted his eyebrows, gave me another grin. This time I could see his excitement; it was a living, palpable thing.
“Well, you said-”
“Alex! There you are.”
Alex turned, and I leaned to one side to look around my husband to see who had just entered the room. It was Dan the security man with his stripper eyes.
“Dan…?” I said.
“Sandra. Hey.” He lifted his chin in greeting, then turned his attention to Alex. “You’re late. If we’re going to do this, then you need to get into position.”
“Okay, we got it.” Alex nodded.
“Is she wearing the vest?” Dan pointed to me.
“The vest?” I asked them both; neither answered.
“I was just about to do that.” Alex reached under the bench and pulled out two items: a bag and a bulletproof vest. The first he handed to Dan. The vest he hoisted around my shoulders and helped me slip my arms through.
“What…wait…what is going on?” I knew my eyes were huge as they moved between Alex and Dan.
Dan briefly dug around in the bag, then handed Alex an odd-looking black rectangle, which he took with care, then turned to me.
“We have just enough time to go over the basics. Don’t worry; they shouldn’t be armed, and the rest of Dan’s team will either be chasing them in here or are on the other side of that door. I wouldn’t put you in a situation where there was a chance you’d get hurt. Okay? You’re perfectly safe.”
“What is going on?” I asked again, this time my voice betraying my panic. My heart was racing, I was hot and sweaty, and everything was happening too fast.
Dan ignored my question and pointed to the strange rectangle thing Alex was holding. “You will aim like this, and press here, then the dart electrodes will shoot out—but they’ll stay connected via conductors…”
I blinked at Dan and his calm recitation of how to operate the object, which I’d just realized was a taser. I was so entrenched in my own little world of shock—no pun intended—that I missed most of the demonstration, but I did tune back in just in time to hear the never do’s, aka: never point it like this, and never do that, and never touch here.
“Oh my God…who, who am I going to taser?”
“Just some guy who is trying to steal art.” Alex shrugged, he literally shrugged off the fact that I would soon be electrocuting someone. I wasn’t surprised because Alex was a total weirdo, but I was stunned…again, no pun intended.
“Some guy? Some guy?” My voice cracked.
“Don’t worry about it, Sandra. If you don’t stun him, I’ll do it. Either way these guys are going down. This was the plan all along, to bring them in here. It doesn’t matter who does it; it only matters that-” Dan stopped speaking and pressed his first and middle finger to his ear, his eyes losing focus like he was listening. Abruptly, he turned away and marched over to the open doors, standing to one side.
“Alex, this is crazy,” I whispered.
“I know.” He grinned. “I love your crazy. It makes really good fig salad.”
I laughed—half hysterical, half confused—then said, “I can’t believe you arranged this. I don’t know that I can do it; it feels so staged.”
He gripped my shoulders then smoothed his hands down to my elbows and squeezed. “We’ve been following this scam for months; it was a complete coincidence that it was set to happen today. I saw the chance, and I thought it might make a fun birthday gift; but you don’t have to do it.”
“Your birthday gift to me is to place me in the middle of an art heist so that I can taser someone?”
He nodded, smiling, looking very proud.
“Thank you, Alex. I mean it. I…I just love you so much.”
“Less than a minute.” We heard Dan call from the other side of the room. “Alex, get in position.”
Alex smiled at me. I smiled at him.
As he stood next to me, shoulder to shoulder, I shook my head, feeling a surge of wonder and love and gratitude that we’d found each other, because—really—who else in the world was this weird?
Who else was ever going to get me and think I was awesome instead of disturbed?
Because he was awesome.
And I was in stupid love with the fact that we were now, and would forever be, awesome together.
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There are three things you need to know about Kat Tanner (aka Kathleen Tyson. . . and yes, she is *that* Kathleen Tyson): 1) She’s determined to make good decisions, 2) She must get married ASAP, and 3) She knows how to knit.
Being a billionaire heiress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it sucks. Determined to live a quiet life, Kat Tanner changed her identity years ago and eschewed her family’s legacy. But now, Kat’s silver spoon past has finally caught up with her, and so have her youthful mistakes. To avoid imminent disaster, she must marry immediately; it is essential that the person she chooses have no romantic feelings for her whatsoever and be completely trustworthy.
Fortunately, she knows exactly who to ask. Dan O’Malley checks all the boxes: single, romantically indifferent to her, completely trustworthy. Sure, she might have a wee little crush on Dan the Security Man, but with clear rules, expectations, and a legally binding contract, Kat is certain she can make it through this debacle with her sanity—and heart—all in one piece.
Except, what happens when Dan O’Malley isn’t as indifferent—or as trustworthy—as she thought?