Trouble in a Tight Dress(5)

By: Lori Sjoberg

Time at the range also helped to clear his mind, though a certain curvy blonde continued to dominate his thoughts.

He hadn’t spoken to Nina since Friday night, when he’d practically mauled her like a goddamn animal at Senator Trask’s fundraiser. The feel of her, taste of her—Christ, just the memory of it made his whole body rev with awareness. It made him want so much more, but that shit wasn’t part of the program.

He was a man of discipline—a former Marine with five combat tours under his belt. He knew better than to let the little head do all the thinking. It wasn’t happening—they weren’t happening—and the sooner he got that through his thick skull, the better off they’d both be.

“Jeez,” his brother Tyler said to his right, his voice muffled through the hearing protection Austin wore over his ears. Compared to Austin, Ty was on the lean side, built more like a basketball player, with a shaggy mop of reddish-brown hair and their mother’s dark-green eyes. As usual, he was dressed in faded cargo pants and an old T-shirt with some sort of geeky sci-fi logo plastered across the chest. “What do you do, sleep with that thing under your pillow?”

Austin ignored the smartass comment, shoved all thoughts of Nina from his head, and fired off the remaining rounds. He’d dragged his youngest of four brothers along to work on his shitty aim. Seriously, the guy couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if his life depended on it. As an electronics specialist, most of Ty’s work was done behind the scenes. He’d probably never be in the type of situation where he’d need to fire a gun, but in their line of work, it never hurt to be prepared.

The scent of gunpowder filled Austin’s nostrils as he ejected the empty clip, slapped in a fresh one, and handed the gun to Ty. “Remember, press; don’t pull.”

He watched while his brother stepped up to the line and took aim. His stance was good, with his legs spread, elbows bent, back straight, and chin up. He seemed a bit stiff, but that might be because his sharpshooter big brother was close by and critiquing his form.

Ty stared down the sight, drew a deep breath, and on the exhale, he squeezed the trigger, again and again. Spent shells flew all over the damn place, until there was a click to signal the magazine was empty. Even with hearing protection, the shots were loud, but neither of them flinched.

Not great, but it was a definite improvement. There wasn’t any kind of grouping to speak of, but at least all of the rounds had hit the target.

“Good job.” Austin clapped a hand on Ty’s shoulder. “Hit three in the black, and we can call it a day.”

Ty picked up a box of ammo and started to load bullets into an empty clip. A lock of his hair fell onto his forehead, and he absently brushed it back. “So how did things go Friday? I asked Ryan, but he didn’t say much.”

Austin shrugged, struggling for nonchalant while memories of Nina nearly melted his brain. He hadn’t said shit to Ryan about what happened in Trask’s office, and he wasn’t about to tell Ty. “Not much to say. We got there, Nina did her thing, and we left before anyone got suspicious. Larissa should be back from her cruise this morning; she’ll be able to tell us if everything’s working properly.”

Knowing his sister, she’d brought her laptop on the cruise, but he hadn’t wanted to interrupt her first vacation in…well, ever. The woman was a workaholic with a small child and another on the way, so she had a lot on her plate and deserved a few days of peace and quiet. This was important but it could wait a little longer, until she came back tanned and well-rested. After that, all bets were off.

“It’ll work. Nina’s good with that shit.” Ty loaded the full clip into the pistol and took aim at the target. This time around, two of the rounds hit the black rings at the center, a definite improvement. “Does Wade know?”

“Uh-uh, and he’s not going to know unless we find something useful.” Their brother had already gone through so much. The last thing he needed was to get his hopes up and have them dashed…again.

“Cool. In that case, I’ll keep my mouth shut.” Ty ejected the clip and placed the gun on the loading table before he set off to replace the bullet-ridden targets with fresh ones.

Austin’s phone vibrated in his back pocket, and when he checked the screen, he smiled at the sight of Larissa’s number.

“Back already?” he asked when he answered. In the background, he could hear his niece Emma chattering about something, and the sound of her high-pitched, energetic voice made his smile even wider.

“We got off the ship about a half hour ago. Did I miss anything good while we were gone?”

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