There was FBI business, and there was personal business. And some days it was hard to tell where the dividing line fell. But Agent Max Broderick was pretty sure Blaine Gattis had just stomped all over that line.
As Max watched Nina slam herself in Blaine’s unmarked car, his blood boiled hotter than a Charleston sidewalk in July. Let her go with Blaine. Fine. He needed some time to cool off too.
He was tired of Nina’s doubts. Yes, he and his new wife had come together in the craziest of situations. Any time someone on the island asked how he and Nina had met, the resulting story was always met with a quirked eyebrow or that sympathetic look of, “I give them six months.” They had known each other a matter of weeks. But it had been enough. He loved Nina. And he knew she loved him. And Max had about worn out his knees praying for Nina to get past the tangles of her shipwrecked past and look at him with not only love. But with trust.
The black Chevy sedan drove down the palmetto-lined lane and out of sight.
“She’ll be back, dear.” Lauralee’s gentle hand rested on his shoulder and he turned to meet her sun-pinked face. “That Blaine is a nice fellow. He watches Nina closer than anyone else on the team. Except for you, of course.”
Blaine watched his wife too closely, Max thought. And of course the rookie was nice. Lauralee thought everyone was nice, right down to that crabby old neighbor down the lane who shouted at every kid who stepped foot on his lawn.
God, what do I do here?
“We’re going to fix some dinner,” Lauralee said. “Come on back to the house, and I guarantee by the time I get the fried potatoes done, Nina will be back.” But Max saw the way Lauralee chewed the bottom of her lip. Like even she wasn’t quite sure what to make of Nina’s hasty departure.
“I could use some help with the grill.” Lucas slipped his Real Men Don’t Let Their Souffles Fall t-shirt over his head and wrapped the towel around his neck. “And I’ve got some mocha cheesecake in the fridge I made just for tonight.” He pulled Lauralee to him and smiled. “Mousse topping with my secret recipe dark chocolate crust.”
“Oh, Lucas.” Lauralee patted his damp chest. “Retirement does agree with you. . .and my waistline.”
As a gull called overhead, Max studied the street his wife had used to escape. Something was off. Something tugged at his mind, bobbing like a small fish on a Zebco pole. Your wife just left you, idiot. What’s off is your whole entire world.
Well, Nina had had her insecurity-fueled panic attacks before. It was time he quit chasing after her. If she didn’t believe he loved her, if she didn’t believe he would rearrange the cosmos just to make her forever happy, then there was nothing else he could do.
“Let’s go grill some fish,” Max said.
“And if you play your cards right,” Lauralee said. “Maybe Lucas will share some of his baking secrets.”
Max glanced at the road one last time. “Can’t wait.”
Max sat in Lauralee’s small kitchen and listened to Lauralee’s dog whine at his feet. The old mutt could barely get the energy up to tinkle on the shrub at the curb, but put him near food, and he was as spry as a new puppy. The dog made pitiful eyes at Max, almost like he knew Max had touched a bite of his dinner.
“That’s the eighth time I’ve called Blaine’s phone.” Max pushed his plate away. “Unless he’s huddled in a corner somewhere, ruing the moment he drove off with my hysterical wife, there is no reason why he can’t spare a few seconds and answer his dang phone.”
“Where could they have gone?” Lauralee took another bite of cheesecake. Unlike Max, worry made her eat. That was her second piece for the night.
“Maybe Blaine took her to Sullivan Island,” Lucas said. “Boy told me he was from there. Maybe he took her there to calm her down, show her the sights.”
“Nah. Why would he–” Max straightened in his cane back chair. “Sullivan Island you said?”
“Yep. S’what he said.”
Max shook his head. “Blaine Gattis is from Dallas, Texas. Born there. It’s where the bureau plucked him from for the job.” The chair squeaked across the tile floor as Max came to his feet, his fingers punching on his phone. “Stewart, Max here. What time is Gattis’s shift over tonight?” Lauralee and Lucas watched as Max’s face hardened beneath his coastal tan. “Is that right?” His voice was hard as steel. “Then I need to report one FBI agent gone rogue.” Max lifted dangerous eyes toward the door. “And one kidnapped wife.”