Cameron’s jaw dropped. Those stupid cats wouldn’t even let him touch them, and he’d been living with Julian for over a year now. He swallowed his feeling of dread. If this guy got hold of Wesson and hurt him, Julian would maim him, and that would be a mess. A moment later, Ty had gathered the big cat into his arms and was standing again, holding him over his shoulder, rubbing his ear gently. He turned to grin at his partner. “Like playing the bagpipes,” he joked about the large feline.
Cameron could hear Wesson purring from where he stood across the room.
Zane shook his head, clearly exasperated. “Make yourself at home, Ty. Want to check the fridge, see if there’s any beer?”
Ty snorted loudly at him and shook his head. He bent and set the cat down carefully, giving his ear a last twirl with one long finger before standing back up and brushing at the cat hair on his shoulder, then looking at his watch. Wesson wound his large body around the agent’s ankles, still purring to the point he was almost vibrating. Cameron had never seen anyone besides Julian handle either cat like that.
Ty bent to pick the cat up again, turning him upside down and holding him like a baby in his arms as he rubbed him under the chin.
Cameron’s jaw dropped.
“Come on, Zane, don’t be scared of a little pu**y,” Ty told his partner with a sly grin. Zane circled one finger in the air, dismissing the… insult?
Cameron’s brows lifted about as far as they could go. “You two are supposed to be FBI agents?” he asked in disbelief.
“And your guy is late,” Ty commented as he nodded. He watched out the balcony doors for a long moment before he set the cat down and calmly reached into his coat to pull his weapon. He glanced at Zane with narrowed eyes and then nodded toward the door as he checked the gun in the same manner Cameron had seen Julian check his, with utter calm and competence. Zane pulled a gun out from under his jacket, handling it capably.
“Mr. Jacobs, will he come in firing, or will he be concerned for your safety?” Ty asked, without a hint of real worry that Cameron could detect. It seemed like both men were accustomed to the idea of imminent peril.
But they didn’t know Julian. He was a whole different level of danger.
“Don’t worry about me,” Cameron murmured. He shook his head and crouched, calling for the dogs. He gathered them and put them into their playpen in the far corner of the room. His gaze settled on Smith and Wesson. While the two cats tolerated him because Julian kicked them out of bed if they didn’t, they didn’t like him that much. Cameron wasn’t too sure he could get them back into the bedroom without damage to himself. So they’d just have to take care of themselves.
Ty and Zane moved together in the middle of the living room as if drawn by magnets, putting their backs to each other, standing maybe four feet apart. Zane faced the door while Ty faced the balcony, synchronized like they’d been doing this a long time. The dogs began yipping plaintively, and Smith and Wesson both sat down in the opening to the bedroom, ready to enjoy the show.
Cameron cocked his head, listening. He could hear nothing over the complaining of the dogs.
The door burst open suddenly, kicked hard from the hallway, splintering the doorjamb. Julian’s gun was drawn already, trained on the two so-called federal agents. Zane was already facing him, gun up and pointed. Ty didn’t turn to face Julian. He kept his gun trained on the silent balcony.
Julian moved into the room, hulking and livid. He pointed his gun at Zane, and the two men stood there aiming at each other, silent as they sized each other up. Cameron was struck by the strong resemblance between them.
“Julian Cross?” Zane finally asked evenly.
Julian answered by pulling back the hammer on his gun.
Cameron saw the trigger move. It was just a tap away from a bullet now. He swallowed hard and forced himself to keep his eyes open. But Zane didn’t even blink.
“We’re here on orders from Richard Burns, assistant director of the Criminal Investigations Branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to call on your status as a registered federal informant,” Zane rattled off efficiently, neither his weapon nor his voice wavering.
Cameron’s eyes widened in surprise as he saw Julian’s gun waver ever so slightly.
“And we would appreciate it if you’d put that gun down,” Ty added without turning around. “And tell your buddy I don’t appreciate the feeling of his crosshairs on my forehead.”
Julian’s eyes darted between them and Cameron. “Are you okay?” he asked Cameron.
“Yes,” Cameron said, resisting the urge to run over to his lover. He was using Julian Bailey’s American accent, and Cameron remembered that Julian had told him that was a warning sign, that it meant he didn’t know or didn’t trust the people they were with. “They didn’t touch me.”
Julian’s black eyes moved back to pin the man in front of him. “Put your weapon down. Then we can talk.”
“I’m telling you right now, Cross, tell your buddy on the roof next door to stand down,” Ty interrupted in a gruff voice.
“Put down your weapon and we’ll discuss it,” Julian repeated slowly.
“Don’t think I won’t shoot your Irish a*s just ’cause I’m a Fed,” Ty growled. “We don’t need you to be walking.”
Zane’s gun was still trained on Julian. As far as Cameron could tell, he hadn’t even twitched as Ty talked.
Even though Ty wasn’t even looking at Julian, the threat still made Cameron shiver. Somehow they knew Julian wasn’t American. Cameron had to swallow hard on a fresh wave of fear.
And Cameron didn’t know how Ty knew someone else was out there at all. Cameron knew that it was Preston, Julian’s ever-present, forever silent driver and cohort, which meant that if Ty even twitched he’d be on the floor, and Zane wouldn’t be but a second behind. Cameron really didn’t want corpses of federal agents in their apartment.
Julian waited another breathless moment before lowering his weapon. He eased the hammer down and then held it up sideways as proof that he’d done so. He slid it carefully back into its hiding spot.
“My man on the roof stays trained on your partner while you show me a badge,” he bargained.
He held up his hand in a signal to Preston. Cameron looked between Julian and Zane as Zane moved the hand bracing his gun and slid it into his jacket. He pulled out a leather wallet and tossed it to Julian.