Home > Handled (The Everyday Heroes World)

Handled (The Everyday Heroes World)
Author: Heather Slade


Prologue

 

 

Cope

 

 

I took a deep breath, making sure there were no holes in the story I was about to tell. I had to sell it and sell it good because the people I was lying to were trained to recognize even the most minute mistruths.

If I failed to convince any one of them, the house of cards I’d carefully built would come tumbling down.

“You better be fucking sure you can protect me, Cope,” the agent I’d handled since the beginning of both our careers said last night when I told him his arrest was scheduled for this morning.

“You’ve trusted me this far, don’t blow it now by panicking.”

“I’ll be the one locked up in a cell like a goddamn sitting duck.”

“Just keep your mouth shut and let me handle it like I always do. If you don’t, every risk we’ve taken in the last seven years will be for nothing.” I didn’t need to add that if he talked, I’d fucking kill him.

 

 

One

 

 

Ali

 

 

“The view from here is spectacular,” said the doorman who delivered my bags to the luxurious corner loft that would be mine to live in, rent-free, for the next six months. “You can see all the way to the United States Capitol.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I muttered, refusing to look to the floor-to-ceiling windows where he stood. The apartment, with its high ceilings, exposed brick, and gourmet kitchen, was the nicest I’d ever seen, let alone lived in.

“Want your bags in here?” he asked.

“Sure.” I followed him into one of the two bedrooms and saw it had an en suite bath to die for, with a huge jetted tub plus a shower I could hold a party in—once I knew anyone in DC.

“Is there anything else I can assist with?”

“Not for now, thanks.” I took the twenty I’d set aside out of my pocket and handed it to him.

“Press one if you change your mind,” he said, pointing to an intercom just inside the front door. “Oh, and if you’re hungry, there’s a café in the building across the street that has great food.”

Once he was gone, I took off my jacket, threw it on one of the chairs in the open-concept space, pulled my laptop out of my bag, and set it on the kitchen bar.

I stretched my muscles, achy from a day of travel, and looked longingly at the high-end stationary bike sitting within a foot of the windows. Sadly, my debilitating fear of heights would prevent me from venturing too close.

When the doorman mentioned the café, I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. If I didn’t soon, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate enough to get the work done that I needed to tonight.

I left my swanky apartment and got into the waiting elevator. With my acrophobia, taking it down was terrifying, but I didn’t have the energy to walk down thirty flights of stairs, no matter how much I needed the exercise.

I pressed the button for the lobby, held on tightly to the side rail, and closed my eyes. The sinking feeling in my stomach made me consider that maybe I wasn’t as hungry as I thought.

By the time I walked from the bank of elevators and out the front door, my hunger pains had returned. I opened the door to the café and approached the counter at the same time a man came in through another entrance.

He was staring at his phone and didn’t notice I was there before him. He looked up at the menu board.

“I’ll have a gyro salad. Thanks, Lindsey.”

“We’re running behind. It’ll be about ten minutes, if that’s okay.”

I cleared my throat, which he didn’t notice, in the same way he paid no attention to the woman behind the counter.

If I weren’t angry-hungry, I would’ve let the whole thing go, but I was, and that, combined with the café running behind, pissed me the hell off. “Excuse me, but I was here first.”

No response. In fact, no reaction. He turned his back and leaned against the display case, something I was sure the employees who had to clean it didn’t appreciate.

I said it again, only louder.

When the man—the very handsome man with dark brown hair and eyes I could see were green—turned around and looked straight at me, I nearly gasped. Standing less than a foot from me was Sumner Copeland, whose photos I’d studied, and yet I hadn’t recognized him when he first walked in.

“What did you say?”

“I…um…said I was here first.”

He shrugged and went back to his phone.

“He gets lost in his own world,” said the woman he’d called Lindsey. “What can I get you?”

I couldn’t think straight; I couldn’t even focus on the menu. If I weren’t starving, I’d walk out. “I’ll have the gyro salad also.”

“Anything else?” she asked, punching my order into the computer.

“Hey, Linds, we’re all out of gyro. That last order was it for today.”

I hadn’t formed my own opinion about Sumner Copeland—until now. The muscle-bound jerk was an asshole.

“What was that? Did you just call me an asshole?”

Had I said it out loud? I looked at Lindsey, who was trying not to laugh, so I must have. I wasn’t going to lie, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to apologize. “Yep. I sure did.”

He put his phone in his pocket. “Why?”

“First, I was here before you. Second, I wanted the gyro salad, which I could’ve had if you hadn’t butted in front of me and taken the last order.”

He pointed up at the menu. “They have lots of other things. The cobb salad is good.”

“I don’t want a cobb salad.”

“Let her have the gyro,” I heard Lindsey say.

“What? No! That’s ridiculous.”

“Tell you what,” she offered. “Order anything you want. It’ll be on the house, and if you come back tomorrow, I’ll save you some gyro.”

“That’s very nice of you, but this isn’t your fault,” I said, glaring up at the man next to me. How the hell tall was he? His dossier said six-something. His muscular chest looked to be at least three feet wide. I couldn’t help but continue my perusal down his body. The sleeves of his collared shirt were tight around his chiseled arms, and the pair of faded jeans he wore hugged his thighs.

“The menu is up there,” he said, pointing.

“What?”

He pointed again at the board and then at Lindsey. “You’re keeping her waiting.”

“You know what? Forget it. I lost my appetite.” I walked toward the same door I came in, but stopped and thanked the woman behind the counter. “I’ll come back another time.”

She smiled and waved. “Have a good one, girl.”

 

 

Two

 

 

Cope

 

 

“Cope,” said Lindsey in a tone of voice that sounded like my mother. “That wasn’t nice.”

I watched the little spitfire use the crosswalk and go inside the building across the way. Her brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail that swayed in time with her ass as she walked.

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