Disclaimer: I do not own or profit from the use of
the Magnificent Seven characters. Thank you to MOG for the creation of the ATF.
Comments: Any references on the country of Bahrain are true. The information is from the State Department and Amnesty International. The Saint Regis is a hotel owned by Starwood, Inc. Although there is a Saint Regis in Colorado, I am actually using characteristics of the Loews Giorgio Hotel. The characters are fictional and the story is too. Thank you MOG for the betaing and being Madame Creator. In addition a thank you to Kim and Shay for their support during the writing process. The title comes from the movie Roman Holiday.
Archivist's Note: This fic was previously hosted on another website and was moved to Blackraptor in September 2006.
The screams were coming from every direction. People were running. She saw the men who had been assigned to protect her. She could see flashes of clothing. Faces were a sudden blur. Everything was out of control. She heard another popping sound.
She put her hands up to cover her ears. She brushed against her mouth and noticed it was open. Was she screaming? Then she felt a force slamming into her side. She was falling, out of control. With a vibrating thud she landed on the pavement. She felt a stinging sensation radiating through her. She couldn't think. Her eyes drifted to the still standing decorations. She wanted to laugh at the flowers still perfectly arranged, out of place in the chaos of gunfire.
She had to get up, but something was smothering her, another body was draped across her. She turned to push him off and felt a wetness slip over her hand. She brought the hand in front of her and saw the blood. She clenched her hand, closed her eyes to the mayhem and began to scream. Its sound seemingly the only noise she could hear.
Buck was appreciating the crisp, fall morning in Denver. Through the tinted windows of the conference room he could see the wind was blowing a little outside, bringing rosieness to the cheeks of even the palest woman. The team had gotten a note that they had a new assignment. JD was sitting next to him; pen posed ready to take notes. Chris, the Judge and some State Department guy were at the head of the table. Wilmington really wasn't paying attention. He was thinking about his date with a fine young filly that he had planned for that night. Then he heard what the Judge was saying and he just had to interrupt.
"Babysitting? Damn, Chris, I thought we were further up the totem pole than that." Buck guffawed, looking at the others to see what they thought. Ezra didn't look too happy. He raised his green eyes to a standing Larabee.
"May I inquire as to why we are being punished?" He drawled out.
The Judge glanced at Chris and with a grin announced to the men, "Agent Larabee volunteered Team Seven for this duty."
Buck scrutinized his teammates reaction. He glanced at JD, whose pen was skipping along the note pad. JD didn't care. He loved his job and like a puppy he would go along with everything. Ezra was shaking his head. Nathan and Josiah had crossed their arms over their chests and didn't look thrilled with the assignment. Nothing flickered over Tanner's face. He was probably doing some mind melding thing with Chris. "You did what?" Buck asked. He couldn't believe Chris volunteered them for a case, trouble found them- they didn't go looking for it. Especially when the State Department was involved.
Chris stared at him a bit. Buck wiggled his fingers in his leader's direction, as if to say 'your mojo doesn't work on me.' JD flicked him in the shoulder to stop, but Wilmington ignored him. The kid had to understand that sometimes you had to be a wise ass and lighten up the day.
"Not that I owe you all an explanation," Larabee commented. "Remember, on my desk it says Agent-in-Charge?" The team squirmed. "Reports have come in that the Emir may be involved in arms dealings."
Robert Stanley, the State Department representative took the lull in the conversation as an opportunity to show a slide of a tall, Middle Eastern man. "Gentlemen, Emir Hamad bin Isa Salman al Khalifa," he flicked another button and a closer picture of the man appeared.
"Whoa, whatcha say we call him Sonny for short." Buck said as he took out his Marvin the Martian pen and began to write some notes. The room laughed in agreement.
"Sonny is the Emir of the country of Bahrain." The next slide slipped in and showed the picture of the country. "It's a collection of islands in the Middle East. They were the first country to discover oil. However, in fifteen years the oil reserves will be depleted and so they are expanding in other industries. Tourism is one of them. That is why they are here to buy the Saint Regis." The next picture showed the famous, elegant, hotel in Denver's Cherry Hill district.
Ezra looked up. "So they can use the Saint Regis name in their country, and all the aplomb it brings."
Stanley nodded and continued with his next picture. "He is traveling with his daughter, Ameerah Kamilah . . ."
"Don't go adding all that bin, muff, huffy stuff. We get the picture." Buck interrupted, sitting up straighter in his seat as he noticed the beautiful woman.
JD leaned forward so he could see the slide better. "She makes me want to go visit."
Josiah chuckled from the end of the table. "I don't think you want to do that son. Amnesty International has written some reports on Bahrain's problems."
"What kind of problems?" JD had a curious mind and wanted to know.
"If I remember correctly. There have been numerous reports on abuses against women and children. It all stems from religious differences and the lack of a democratic environment. The monarchy is Sunni Moslem, while most of the population is Shiite Moslem. The government feels threatened since they feel the Iranians back the Shiite Moslems. Then Emir and his ministry started an overt campaign to stamp out people who want to bring the Bahrainian constitution back." Josiah continued, lost in the knowledge he was sharing with the group.
"Whoa Pard," Buck said. "Information overload." He was still catching up on his notes.
"He is correct though." Stanley interjected. "The State Department has been collecting information on protests and the ruling government's treatment of their prisoners. Gentlemen, from what I have read, you should all be thankful we have due process in this country."
The men talked among themselves. Nathan asked more questions of Josiah. Chris cleared his throat to get their attention.
"Josiah and Nathan are with me guarding the Emir."
Buck crossed his fingers hoping he was assigned to the girl.
"Ezra and Vin are with the Princess, and Buck and JD are going in as hotel staff."
Everyone was puzzled by their duties. This was not the usual pairings. Buck took a deep breath, and when he let it out, he also let out his thoughts. "KP duty? Aww, come on ol' Buddy!" Wilmington wanted to remind the leader of their twenty-year friendship.
Chris smiled. "We're outta here in fifteen minutes."
Vin stayed in place watching the others exit the conference room. Chris was exchanging niceties with the Judge and State Department rep, a few handshakes later they left. Tanner cleared his throat as he confronted the leader.
"Chris what's up?"
"With?" Larabee asked distractedly as he signed some reports.
Vin expelled air through his nose in a snort. "My assignment. You have me guarding a princess." Years in special ops and then with the US Marshall's service and he ended up guarding a girl?
"You too?" Chris clicked the top of his green pen. Printed across the pen was 'Mutt's Bait and Tackle', reminding Vin of a long ago fishing trip. "Not that I need to explain my decisions to you, but Buck and girl -no go."
Vin nodded, that much made sense, but he still wanted to know the reason for the others. Larabee continued.
"Josiah has knowledge of Muslims, and I don't want to make any stupid mistakes. The State Department wants a medical assessment and so "
"Nathan," Vin finished the sentence.
Chris nodded. "Ezra is into all that fancy, jet-set shit, and I need you to make sure he doesn't work any angles. Meet with your approval Agent Tanner?"
The sharpshooter chuckled. "Okay, Boss, but you owe me."
The leader smirked and left the room not acknowledging Vin's statement.
Chris, Nathan, Josiah, Ezra and Vin went to a private airstrip to meet the Emir and his daughter, and to provide escort back to the hotel where they would be staying for a week. The plane touched down. The red and white Bahrainian flag was emblazoned on its hull. Within moments after it had completed its turn, a stairway was brought forward. A flash of yellow whisked by the hatch. When the form turned they could see it was a tall, thin woman. The princess dressed in a stylish mustard colored suit, with a silk scarf about her neck. The scarf rippled as it was caught up by the wind
"Oh yeah, you look like you are in for a hell of a time." Chris said as he playfully slapped Vin on the back.
Vin slowly evaluated the woman. She looked like a good wind would send her spiraling off. It didn't help that she was teetered on spiky heels. She had dark long hair and an olive complexion. She smiled and shook hands with a gentleman who had approached her from the moveable stairway but the congenial expression was hidden momentarily as a wind caught her hair and sprayed it wildly around her. A quick gesture with her left hand brought it under control as the man led her aside. Their heads bent together as they spoke. His turban harshly contrasted with her unadorned head. She looked like one of those high maintenance women. She was right up Ezra's alley.
"Yes, gentlemen, Lady Luck has yet again blessed Ezra Standish." The undercover agent clasped his hands together, and rubbed them together as if looking forward to a good meal. Vin shook his head.
"Amen to that Brother." Josiah said, appreciating her exotic looks.
Vin gave a nod to Chris, who was watching the next passenger come down the aluminum steps. The Emir looked like his picture, except in person he exuded a sense of confidence and arrogance. His head was covered, but he wore a finely tailored business suit. His beard was neatly trimmed.
"Later," Vin said giving the others the two-finger salute. Ezra, after removing the imaginary lint from his suit sleeves, was making his way to the other limousine. Vin caught up to him in a few strides. Standish opened the door for the princess, who did not give them a second look.
She had large, black sunglasses on even though the sky had become overcast. What was she trying to hide? 'Whatever,' Vin thought. He had a job to do, which transcended any feelings he had toward the wealthy of the world who ignored others. Ezra ducked into the limo and Vin followed, making himself comfortable in the plush surroundings. He saw Standish flash his gold tooth at the princess. Tanner looked out the window, this sucked.
Buck figured he and JD might as well make the most of it. The others had to be on their best behavior, Wilmington and Dunne, however, would have some freedom at the hotel. They entered the gold trimmed revolving doors. The doorman, wearing a long red jacket and top hat greeted them with a stately, "Sirs."
"Hiya," Buck replied, with a smile that curled the edge of his mustache.
They went through the opulent marble lobby. Fresh flowers in a large, Grecian style urn decked a large round table. Carefully placed throughout the foyer were comfortable couches in a paisley pattern that brought out the colors of the green, marble flooring.
JD seemed to be taken his lush surroundings in stride, probably from being brought up in a mansion in Boston. Wilmington found the one thing that made any place home, the face of a smiling woman. She was at the front desk, wearing a gray jacket and her nametag read Rebecca.
"Becky, who do we see about a job?" Buck ran his hand along the cool granite counter.
"The Concierge," she dropped her eyes demurely and gestured with a nod at the nearby alcove.
"Thanks darlin'." He winked at her. "We'll be working together real soon."
JD pulled at Buck's jacket, prompting him to move instead of gazing at Becky's eyes. "Come on lover boy. We have a job." Dunne shot squint-eyed glare at his partner, "Remember?"
"You don't have it Junior." Buck brought his fingers up as if to poke the young agent in the eyes ala Three Stooges. JD batted them away as Wilmington explained. "Only Larabee can do the stare."
They were laughing as they reached the alcove. No one was occupying the desk so JD rang the bell in a quick staccato rhythm. Buck saw his friend flinch as the tall, thin man clamped his hand over JD's.
"Stop," he said, as Dunne pulled his hand away. "Can I help you?" He looked down his long nose, with what had to be a fake British accent.
Wilmington stepped forward and continued the same rhythm on the counter with his hands to annoy the snobby concierge. "Some jobs have been arranged for us. I'm Buck and this here is JD." The ATF had arranged the jobs through a hotel staffing company and the general manager of the hotel. All JD and Buck had to do was report for duty.
"Gentlemen, the help does not come through the front door." The man gave them a quick glance and began writing in a book. "Perhaps you are familiar with the term 'service entrance?'"
"Sorry," the young agent mumbled and shifted anxiously from foot to foot.
The Concierge did not look up. "The Saint Regis has a reputation to protect."
Buck was getting frustrated. He quickly replied. "Like we said, sorry."
The Concierge heard the curt tone in the other man's voice and gave Buck a watery smile. "In keeping up with the decorum which is expected of the Saint Regis staff-you'll have to get rid of that mustache." He made no motions with his hands; instead he brought his beady eyes down on them. "And you'll have to cut that hair."
"What?!" They both yelled. The few guests in the lobby, looked over at the commotion.
"Lower your voices," He said in an angry hiss, while still keeping a smile on his face for the guests. "I suggest you heed my advice. Hotel managers come and go. But the concierge stays, and that is what my name plate says." His hands lovingly caressed the nameplate, which read Parker Robert, Concierge.
"Do you know Chris Larabee," Buck said when he heard mention of the signage. "Never mind he wouldn't know a prr " Wilmington was about to share some of his thoughts about the jerk, when JD stopped him.
Robert went back to work writing in his book and gave them directions. "Go through those doors and Jacob will get you a uniform."
Both Buck and JD backed away from the desk, not wanting to turn their back on the enemy. Once they were a safe distance they made their way to the back of the hotel. "The mustache and the hair stay." Wilmington mumbled. "He just declared war, JD."
"Josiah, if you can't get a grip then I'll have you switch places with Vin." Chris repeated his threat through his mike. The day had started off shitty and now Josiah was making it worse. Chris had not expected Amnesty International to begin protesting in front of the hotel. Luckily, Denver PD was kind enough to offer assistance and was successful at keeping the angry crowds at bay. Now, his problem was Josiah. Maybe this whole assignment had been a mistake.
"Hear that, Josiah." Nathan said through his microphone. "You know how Vin wants out of his detail."
From Chris's vantage point, one of the higher slopes of the course, he could see the large agent had clasped his hands in prayer. "I can't tell you how hard this is," Sanchez confessed. "It transcends religion." He took a deep breath. "I can do it."
The men all turned as they heard a golfer yell, "Fore."
"He has a terrible swing. You know I could go and give him a few pointers."
"No!" Chris was tired. The usually well-focussed agent had only one thought--golf. Sanchez had even gone so far as to pester the team leader to be near the green. Larabee had enough. He walked down to the agent from his watch point. "Go stand over there." He pointed to the place he just vacated. "Make sure everything is clear."
The large agent stalked away, mumbling into his head set. "Over there away from the green, the well-trimmed area of the gods."
"Yes, Josiah." Chris gritted out; making sure the man knew how perturbed his leader was.
"Okay," he continued his mumbling. "A little heaven on earth for myself. I don't get to play. It is always, 'Josiah, do this profile of an arson?' Never, 'Josiah, want to play a quick nine hole?' "
Chris looked up to the clear blue sky. He wasn't a praying man, but he could only hope the Emir did not plan to play golf everyday. If this continued then Larabee would not hesitate to pull Tanner in and send Sanchez with the princess. If Chris screwed up with the Emir then the whole team would get their heads cut off along side him. They were a team, and would go down together.
Chris waved at Nathan to show he had switched places. Jackson had reported their charge was in good health. He was only fifty and seemed to be very robust. His father just passed away at the age of seventy-six, so it seemed as if the Emir too would have a long life.
The man seemed nice enough. However, it was hard to think of him as nice when you knew he had people tortured by taking cables and beating their soles of their feet. That didn't concern Larabee as much as the possible illegal arms dealings. At least he was in a position to do something about that.
He saw Josiah looking intently at the northwest corner of the golf course and taking a few steps forward. Chris and Nathan saw it too. It was a flash of light coming off the muzzle of a high-powered rifle.
"Get down!" Chris yelled out, running forward as did Nathan. One of the Emir's guards tackled the Bahrainian leader. The shot rang out, landing with a thud in the green near the hole.
Chris and Nathan fired back. No one was on the golf course today except for the Emir and his party. Josiah had run after the shooter. He was gone for five minutes over the green dune. Larabee and Jackson checked on the Emir and his group and then headed out toward the same direction as Sanchez. They were halfway there when they saw the larger agent jogging back over the hill.
He was out of breath and panting by the time he reached his companions. Before the leader had a chance to ask Josiah bent down to relieve a cramp and commented breathlessly. "He got away."
"Damn!" Chris roughly holstered his Glock. The agents started to walk slowly back to the Emir, they knew Chris was upset at the loss of the sniper. Finally he gritted out, "Any ideas?"
"Lot of people are upset with the Emir." Josiah said, the slow pace of the walk had allowed him to recuperate from the run. "This guy had someone waiting and they were out of here."
"Little cocky of them to try here." Nathan replied, gesturing to the golf course which did not allow much cover to a gunman.
"Great cocky shits," Chris sighed. "Let's get him out of here." He gestured to the Emir and his friends who were walking around slightly disoriented and dazed at the attack. Nathan and Chris began to corral the men back to the golf carts. Once everyone was in, Larabee noticed one of his agents was missing.
He spotted Sanchez crouched down on the green hard at work at one particular spot. "Josiah, what the hell are you doing?" Chris harshly whispered to the agent as he came up behind him, ready to drag his ass back to headquarters.
"Tuffing up the green. Do you know how much it costs to repair a green?" Josiah replied as he stood up and examined his work.
The seething leader shook his head. The area was going to be torn up by forensics in moments. They wouldn't care how much it cost to replace a green. What was it with Josiah and golf? Chris was thankful he wouldn't have to find out. The Emir had decided he had enough golfing on this particular trip.
Ezra and Vin met at the Saint Regis Hotel. They were to escort Her Highness to a local women's shelter where she was slated to give a speech about the conditions in her country and take a tour of the facility. She was running late this morning. Standish understood, a woman of that quality would take care in her appearance.
Vin, however, didn't. He glared at the door. Ezra believed his companion's poor mood was a combination of the assignment and the suit Agent Tanner was wearing. A plain, baggy fitting, blue ensemble, which the sharpshooter looked very uncomfortable in as he pulled the collar of his shirt again for the tenth time in a half an hour.
Finally she exited her hotel room. The extra time had been well spent. The under cover agent took in the sight of the princess dressed in a moss green, tailored, business suit. Her hair was pulled up and soft tendrils surrounded her face. Black, possibly Versace, sunglasses were perched over her nose. Vin took the lead out of the hotel. His eyes darting back and forth in careful scrutiny. Ezra flanked one side of the princess while her personal bodyguard, Abdullah was on her right.
Uneventfully, they stepped into the awaiting limousine. The three of them were relaxing in the rear of the limousine, while Kamilah's personal bodyguard was in the front seat with the driver. Ezra leaned back in the gray leather interior. He studied the princess. She had neatly typed index cards that she shuffled in a nervous manner. She was aloof. She hadn't paid any attention to her security team. But, Ezra understood royalty. Hadn't he gone to school with the son of the Earl of Highmore? You just needed the right approach.
"Your Highness, I meant to say earlier you have a lovely name." Standish had folded his manicured hands in a relaxed manner.
"Hmmm," the princess replied distractedly. Her brows were stitched together in concentration. She had finally removed the black sunglasses showing her deep brown eyes and soft brows.
"Kamilah, 'perfect one', fits you." Ezra leaned toward the Princess and waved his hand as if he was shocked at his forwardness. The movement caught the princess's attention. " I apologize for my boldness." He looked at her intently with his green eyes.
She smiled slightly, her brow relaxed. "You know Arabic?" She had a slightly accented voice. The princess stilled the cards, gripping them in her right hand.
"I traveled extensively in my youth, and was fortunate enough to have visited the Arab states." Mother had dragged him everywhere. It seemed there were few countries on and around the European continent that Ezra had not visited as a teenager. Pages had to be added to his passport due to the numerous stamps.
Tanner rolled his eyes in disgust at the undercover agent and took to gazing out the darkly tinted windows. Ezra blinked twice in quick succession. Obviously, Vin had assumed that only Buck knew how to flirt with a woman. Wilmington flirted with any woman. Standish was more discriminating and refined in his choices.
"I was allowed to see some of Europe," she replied, pushing a tendril of hair away from her cheek seductively, "but this is my first trip to the United States."
"We're here," Vin interrupted rudely as the car pulled up in front of the shelter.
Ezra exited from the right, and gentlemanly offered his hand to assist Kamilah in alighting from the vehicle. She gripped it unhesitatingly. Ezra smiled, knowing he had taken the right approach with this particular
A welcoming party was waiting for the group, and the princess was quickly escorted to the stage to give her speech. Abdullah situated himself near the stage while Vin and Ezra mingled along the fringe of the seated crowd of one hundred women.
Standish listened to the speech to glean more information so he could engage Her Highness in further conversation. She started off looking out to the crowd, and then shifted her brown eyes down momentarily.
"In the past five years the number of working women in Bahrain has increased 40%. We are making headway with the assistance of my father, the Emir. I come to you as a representative of The Child and Mother Welfare Association. We are trying to show my countrymen that Bahrain still has a problem of tolerating violence against women."
She spoke for ten minutes ending with a message of hope for the future of Bahrain and explaining she intended to learn from this particular shelter in Denver. Upon completion she received a warm round of applause.
The head of the shelter took the princess on an hour tour of the facility. During the tour Kamilah shook hands and spoke to the many residents of the shelter. Some looked at her defiantly. They had been through too much to care about some obscure royal girl from another country. Others tried to adjust their appearance, tuck a stray hair and neaten their clothes before shaking hands with a princess. Kamilah treated them all with respect and warmth, taking the term 'noblesse oblige' to the proper level.
Once her engagement was over the princess appeared to be more relaxed in the limousine. She looked out the window taking in the storefronts on Denver's Main Street as they drove by. "Starbucks," she said out loud.
Ezra crooked up his eyebrow in amusement. "Yes a coffee haven, Your Highness, although a touch on the commercial side."
"Oh," she looked down, and Standish saw the bottom lip jutting out. She was pouting.
Ezra recognized it as a ploy. She wanted to go to Starbucks. He gave in. "But, if you wish we can stop and find something for your fancy."
"Yes!" She practically bounced from her seat.
Vin proved to be a dampening agent however. "Ezra, I don't think that's such a good idea." He accentuated each word to tell Standish he was against the decision.
"You wouldn't." He knocked on the divider between the front and back seat and motioned for the driver to halt by holding up his hand. Standish opened the door as he glanced at his partner; "Do you want anything?"
"Other than to shoot you dead now? No," Vin smiled to the Princess and gave her a nod.
Ezra smirked back at the sharpshooter's barb.
It was lunchtime, but the line was insignificant. Ezra quickly made it back to the awaiting car with two grande lattes. Vin opened the car door from the inside and stepped out. His blue eyes glared at the undercover agent.
"Stop trying to burn your thoughts into my head, Agent Tanner."
Vin deftly removed one of the steaming coffees from Ezra's laden hands and brought the plastic cover to his lips. He took a large gulp of the scalding liquid and licked his lips.
"Should have made it stronger." Vin commented handing the coffee back to Standish. The undercover agent grimaced at the gesture.
"Keep it," the disgusted agent said to the sharpshooter. Ezra quickly got into the limousine, handing the white and green cup to Kamilah.
"Thank you, Agent Standish." She wrapped two hands around the latte.
Vin gave him a Cheshire cat grin as he took another sip from the stolen coffee. It didn't make a difference. She knew Ezra's name.
JD reached over and hit the horn of Buck's Chevy. A shrill beeping echoed in the confines of the truck. The young agent had been waiting fifteen minutes for his housemate who had stayed in the apartment to pick up the ringing phone.
They were due to be at work at the hotel soon for the late afternoon shift. JD had shoved the garment bag containing his gray uniform in the area behind the seat. He checked to make sure it was where he placed it, when he turned back he could see Buck running through the entryway of their building.
"JD, I swear you need Garanimals." He said as he stepped into the truck and tossed his garment bag in the back. "You have my jacket."
Dunne shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry, they look the same." Buck started up the engine. "Who was it on the phone?"
Wilmington didn't comment at first, but the young agent recognized the twinkle of mischief in his eyes. "He wears a toupee."
"Who?" Dunne answered, puzzled at first. Buck's smile grew wide, and JD figured it out. "No," The damn concierge, JD smiled. The young agent didn't like people who made you feel like you were nothing. Dunne always found he had to prove himself due to his baby-face looks, and insensitive losers like the concierge got to him. "How did you find out?"
Buck screwed up his face and smirked. "I am a decorated ATF agent, JD. I investigated."
"No, really," Dunne chuckled, poking fun at his roommate.
The congenial agent sighed and gave away his source of information. "I know a girl who works for the Hair Club for Men."
Dunne reached out and tugged on a lock of Wilmington's dark hair.
"Get out, JD!" Buck slapped the young man's hand away. "This is natural."
Dunne thought about the hair that he found every morning in the shower drain. "Yeah, a rug wouldn't shed as much as you do."
"Is that a receding hairline JD?" Buck countered back.
"Ha, Ha," Dunne gave a forced laugh, and brushed the hair off his forehead. Was he losing his hair? Maybe he shouldn't wear the newsboy cap so much. He looked around realizing they were not on East Mississippi. "Where are we going? This isn't the way to the hotel."
"A little detour." He stopped a stop sign before continuing on. "Cheri, my little Hair
Club spy, is gonna slip me some pictures of Parker Robert without hair."
JD smiled, payback was a bitch. Through the windshield he saw the clock of city hall looming between the other buildings. "Gonna be late."
"Don't worry about it." Buck affectionately punched JD's shoulder. "Everything will still be there."
Buck was referring to the equipment the Secret Service had installed in the hotel rooms of the Bahrainian dignitaries. They had all sorts of listening devices, some had been found, others had not. There were also video cameras set up. Computers in a closet in the basement of the hotel recorded everything. JD and Buck just had to make sure that everything was operating properly on a daily basis. The old owners of the hotel had given permission for the bugs. The Secret Service had told the Bahrainian officials the videos were necessary for security, and although they were not happy, they seemed to have accepted the intrusion.
Every night a transcript was typed with the latest conversations. So far there were no leads on armament deals, but they could always hope for a slip.
JD liked the little toys they had at their disposal. Hopefully the ATF would get more clout and some of these gadgets would land on his desk. A guy could dream.
Cheri met them downstairs at her office building with a manila envelope. Once she secured a promise of a date from Buck she handed over the incriminating photos.
They walked through the service entrance of the hotel fifteen minutes after their shift had started. Since seeing the pictures they couldn't wipe the smiles off their faces.
"Gentlemen, I hope this is not going to be a pattern." The Concierge came out from a lurking corner, hoping to scare the two men.
JD almost laughed out loud when he heard the word, 'pattern.' Automatically his mind thought of male pattern baldness. He bit his lip so he wouldn't go into hysterics.
"Roberts, don't go tearing up the rug." Buck said and then bent over laughing.
"Excuse me?" Parker said as he watched the men practically fall on each other in mirth.
JD was taking in big breaths of air to bring himself under control. "Won't happen again, sir." Dunne finally managed to say.
Roberts gave them a skeptical look and went back to the lobby of the hotel. Once he was out of hearing range, JD asked his question. "What are we gonna do with this stuff?"
Buck had the envelope covered by the garment bag, which contained his uniform. Slyly he replied. "When the time is right, we'll strike."
Ezra found he was the center of attention at the table at the saloon later that night. He had made a mistake though, in forgetting that while Tanner wasn't much for complaining, the man did have a wicked steak; and he was now getting revenge on the undercover agent for his behavior today.
Nathan, Josiah and Chris had joined them at the bar after they had finished their work with the Emir. The gruesome twosome were working late at the hotel, and thus unable to join them. The group at the table had not stopped laughing since Vin started regaling them with the events as he saw them. But, Ezra knew he would get the last laugh.
Kamilah was an attractive woman with culture and bearing. There would be no regrets on his part if he had an alliance with her. Who knew where it could lead? A paid trip to Bahrain or perhaps a token of affection? Stocks and bonds were always welcomed, and Ezra did have an early retirement to fund. He wanted to be out of the law enforcement business before he was killed. One could only live on adrenaline rushes so long. In addition, the world was made up of whom you knew. A connection to a leader of a country would be a coup, no pun intended. Maude raised a son who knew how to pack and knew how to take care of himself.
Blissfully, Standish had a moment before Vin started again. He watched as the sharpshooter savored his beer before he continued. "Felt like an intruder with Ezra making doe eyes at the Princess."
"Jealous?" The undercover agent retorted.
"No, just want to tell you I am not into, what are those fancy words you use? Oh yeah, voyeurism and menage a trois stuff." Vin slapped Ezra on the back. "So don't go thinking about pulling a Sean Young/Kevin Costner scene like they did in the back of the limo in No Way Out."
Ezra studied his cufflinks, contemplating praying for divine assistance. Would they ever understand? "Surely you realize I have ulterior motives."
"When don't you?" Nathan asked, his brown eyes wide to show that it was a jesting comment.
Standish explained. "Perhaps she will grow comfortable with me, and pass along some information concerning her father."
They nodded. Ezra thought of Buck's saying, 'the light bulb just turned on.'
"Your mother's Machiavellian tendencies are flaring up." Josiah smiled. Unfortunately, he too fell under Maude's spell the last time she was in Denver.
"In addition, contrary to the disgruntled Agent Tanner, I have to say, being in the presence of a beautiful woman is not a horrible way to spend the time." He tipped his glass of Guinness in a mock toast to Vin before partaking of the soft brown liquid.
"Amen, brother." Sanchez saluted his glass in a similar manner.
Ezra saw Chris shaking his head. Vin also caught the movement.
"Regretting the assignment, cowboy? Heard what happened with Josiah."
"Don't mention it, Vin." Nathan explained and glanced between Josiah and Chris. "It's a sore point and there are no leads on the shooting."
Standish heard about the problems at the golf course. The ATF team leader didn't mind the playfulness of the group, but the large agent's actions had irked an already usually irritated Larabee. He gave Sanchez a sympathetic nod as a fellow persecuted officer of the law.
"Thanks for adding to the misery." Chris put his beer bottle down with a thud, which made the white, cocktail napkins jump in fear.
"Not a problem," Vin drawled with a lazy grin. "I'm heading out, boys" he said as he drained his bottle and threw some money on the table. "Ez, see ya tomorrow bright and early."
The five men would be together in the morning for the signing of the hotel to its new owners. "Are you bringing your surly attitude?"
"Probably," Vin winked as he slipped into his suit jacket, which he had carelessly tossed in the booth, as did the rest of the men. They had rolled the sleeves back on their dress shirts and loosened their ties. Not Ezra however, he had an image to uphold. An image that a certain princess was obviously interested in.
Vin quickened his footsteps. There was a chill in the air and the navy blue jacket was not enough protection for a Denver fall night. He would slip in to his worn leather jacket, which he had left inside the Jeep. He saw the shadow before he saw her. There was a street light immediately outside the saloon.
"You're supposed to be at the hotel." He stopped in front of her. She looked different dressed casually. Her hair was down, somewhat tousled. She had jeans, and a fleece jacket.
"I decided to sneak out. Royal prerogative." She was looking around him, trying to see into the windows of the saloon. "I am trying to see the real Denver." She stopped peering over his shoulder when she discovered she was unable to see anything. "I overheard you were all coming here tonight." She explained to him.
Vin started to walk past her. Funny, he thought, Ezra made a bid deal out of calling her, Your Highness or Princess. Tanner thought that was strange. It wasn't the same as calling your c-o, captain. "You should head back." He advised as he looked back over his shoulder.
She stayed, looking around the deserted street. "I told my taxi to go."
He stopped. He wasn't a jerk, and he had made some disparaging comments about her earlier. Guess he had to do some penance. "I'll take you back." He pointed to the beat-up Jeep. "Get in." He cleaned off the passenger seat of its food wrappers and general debris.
She looked between the saloon and the car, and scurried to the vehicle. "You're not going to tell your friends about this?" She look like she was waiting for punishment.
"No, figure I won't get ya inta trouble." He saw her smile, thinking she had gotten away with something. "You're just gonna sneak out again, won't ya?"
She buckled her seat belt. Vin realized in the dimness of the light how young she was. She couldn't have been more than twenty-three. "No one is going to miss me. Can I have a quick tour?" Her dark eyes were pleading. "Please, please, please?"
Vin started the Jeep and gave it a few minutes to warm up. "Wantin' to see how the other half lives."
"Something like that." She said as she tucked her hair behind her ears.
Against his better judgement he started driving her to Purgatorio. He figured a good scare would have her scurrying back to the hotel in no time. She would get rid of those thoughts of venturing out on her own. Denver, alone was no place for a girl who was as sheltered as the Princess seemed to be.
She was hesitant to get out of the car when they pulled up to his apartment building. Nervously she pointed to the sign, 'ALERTA SE ESTA VIGILANDO LE VECINDAD!' "You have a neighborhood watch?"
"Yep," he locked the door to the Jeep, smirking slightly at her discomfiture.
"You live here?" She gulped as she stood next to him in the doorway of the building. In silence they made their way up to his fourth floor apartment.
"Not a palace, but it's home." He stated as he opened the door. His place was neat; one of the kids must have picked up. He placed his jacket on the coat hooks by the door.
She glanced about the room with a wrinkled nose. "Hmmm, I see."
"See what?" He opened the refrigerator to pull out something to drink.
"Nothing," she hadn't moved since when she had walked in.
He heard the attitude in her voice. He shut the appliance soundly. This place was better than the hundreds of other places he had lived in. There was a roof and it was warm with furniture. Vin Tanner took nothing for granted. "I see a girl with a silver spoon stuck so far up "
She backed up and opened the door. "This was a mistake. I'm leaving." She rushed down the hallway, her shoes tapping quickly against the linoleum floor.
"Shit!" Vin said as the door flew open. "Wait," he yelled after her. She had made it almost down the hall. He ran and was able to grab her arm. "I can't let you leave."
She looked at his hand grabbing the her forearm. He let the hand drop. "You'd never get a cab." He said with a smirk. She was still looking like she was going to run. "I'm sorry."
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "No, I know the way I come off." She crossed her arms. "I am not naïve or an innocent. I am a representative of my father, but don't think I don't know what is going on in my own country."
Vin nodded and they walked back to his room, luckily no one had opened their doors to see what was going on.
"They torture women in my country. They hold them hostage so that their husbands and brothers give themselves up; sometimes for months at a time. I'm not supposed to know. It's easier to pretend and create a façade." She abruptly stopped talking. "I've told you too much." She smiled. "Please forget my ramblings."
Vin took his jacket, still clinging with the cold from the outside off the hook. "I'll take you back."
She nodded, and didn't say anything until they were back in the Jeep. She had seen the bridle he was repairing in the backseat. "You ride?"
"Yep," he replied, keeping his eyes on the road. His only thought was getting her back to the hotel without any incident. He wouldn't want to explain to Chris what she was doing with him.
She seemed wistful. "At home I love the exhilaration of riding."
"Aha," he wasn't much for conversation and she must have understood since she did not try to engage him in any conversation.
Fifteen minutes later they were nearing the hotel. "Drop me off here so I can sneak in."
Vin signaled and pulled over to the side of the road.
"Goodnight," she said as she pulled up the hood of her jacket without even looking back. It was as if the whole incident didn't happen. She ran the two hundred feet to the hotel. Vin watched her look around an go in the side entrance unobserved.
Ezra felt the Gucci sunglasses that were on the inside of his Brioni suit jacket. He wished he could slip them on. They had to meet at the hotel at eight, and then there was a continental breakfast at nine before the actual signing at eleven in the morning. Standish was joining in the polite applause after, with a flourish, the Emir signed the documents giving him ownership of the Saint Regis Hotel.
The photographers popped picture after picture. The princess had kept a smile pasted on her face, staying in the background like window dressing on the event. She answered a few questions posed to her by reporters, but mostly it was her father's day.
Chris and Vin were quietly talking in a corner; their backs to the beige wallpapered wall of the large conference room. Their eyes roving the crowd, making sure the reporters and onlookers kept their distance.
Ezra went to join them, approaching just as Vin was filling Chris in on the knowledge he had come by the night before.
"The princess wants to go on a tour."
Standish perked up, Kamilah had mentioned her interest in seeing Denver and the undercover agent was excited at the prospect of being able to show her the better parts of the city; its museums and cultural centers.
Chris shrugged his shoulders. "So, take her on a tour." The undercover agent had seen the Emir's itenernary. The team leader was going to be busy all day. At least there were no golf games scheduled, much to Josiah's chagrin.
"It's hard to protect someone so out in the open." Vin drawled. "Figured I'd take her to your ranch." Both men were still not looking at each other. Like Ezra, their eyes were on their assignment. Standish turned though upon hearing the change in plans. He had the day all planned.
"Makes sense." Larabee noticed Standish was taking interest in the conversation. "Ez, you have an opinion?"
Ezra did have an opinion. He thought Agent Larabee's abode was not a place for royalty. "Although I understand Agent Tanner's concern how do I say this? Your ranch is perhaps not what the princess is accustomed too."
Chris tilted his blonde head and gave a lopsided grin. "Too low class?"
The undercover agent cleared his throat. "No offense."
"None taken." Chris's grin remained. "Why don't you ask her." He said, as if he was talking to a five-year-old. "If it's okay with her then it's fine with me." He gave both Vin and Ezra a quick nod before moving closer to the Emir.
Tanner continued to lean against the wall. This was a job for someone with impeccable manners. Ezra dusted off his suit lapels and made his way to the Princess.
"Excuse me, Your Highness." He had to wait before she looked at him. He bowed slightly when she acknowledged his presence. "I realize this is highly improper ...I know you were hoping to have the opportunity to see our city. But we are but we are concerned with your safety and wondering if you enjoy seeing the more rustic landscape of Colorado?"
"Rustic landscape?" She whispered with the smile still painted upon her face for on-lookers.
Ezra decided to say it plainly. "Horse back riding at a ranch,"
Her eyes lit up and then narrowed slightly. "Yes, I will be ready once my duties here are complete."
"Very well," he bowed again and made his way to tell Tanner. He was surprised that Kamilah wanted to go to a ranch. Thankfully, Ezra had a spare set of casual clothes in the trunk of his Jaguar. Black wool pants and a black Zegna sweater. That God-awful nylon ATF windbreaker was there too, but Ezra could count on his left hand the amount of times he had been forced to stoop so low as to have to wear it.
Ezra thought of his next tactic to attain the princess's favor. He would impress her with his skill in dressage, hopefully Chris's horse co-operated.
Vin's leaden footsteps echoed in the empty stairwell of his building. He carried his suit over his arm. He had changed into jeans and his leather jacket at Chris's ranch. It had been a long day. He had to keep an eye on the Princess and Ezra, who almost broke his neck trying to do fancy stuff, with the horse he was riding.
They both seemed to be having a good time. Ezra was quick to smile and the princess liked being out in the fresh air. Peso had enjoyed the workout; usually Vin only had the opportunity to work with him on the weekends. After bringing back the princess to the hotel, Vin and Ezra met up with Buck and JD at the saloon for awhile before their late night shift.
He opened the door. It creaked slightly reminding him to find the oil can, which was somewhere under the sink. His sense of smell noted a scent of perfume. As he went for his gun he heard the familiar voice.
"You always leave your door unlocked?" She was sitting on the plaid couch. He placed his suit near her.
"Yep," he turned to hang up his jacket. He made no further moves near her. He was uncomfortable with the tension in his own home.
As she stood, Tanner noticed she had not taken off her jacket. "I just wanted to say thank you." She came close to him and he could smell the sweet perfume. She closed the distance between them further and leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek.
He pulled her head over so that their lips were a hairs breath apart. He left the decision to her. Softly she placed her lips on his. He deepened the kiss and drew her against the closed door. They slid down the door to the carpeted floor.
The days passed quickly. During the day Vin was the consummate professional. The princess carried on her haughty air and only Ezra was able to draw her into conversations. Standish believed she was falling for him. No one knew the truth of the affair, not even the couple involved.
They both took risks, giving the sex an illicit, urgent feeling. The sharpshooter, who took on calculated danger, was playing with fire since he already had the Charlotte incident in his past. This relationship, if known, would end his career. First he had an affair with a married woman, and now royalty. His friends would distrust him. This wasn't like him-Vin Tanner, orphan of Purgatorio with Her Royal Highness. He felt a maddening guilt at times, but he understood it was below the surface. The sex satisfied a need. The need to be close to someone for just a little while.
The princess risked punishment and scorn. She wanted the freedom to be lord over her body and soul. She was alone, living in a state of solitude in that she was never able to be the true, passionate, Kamilah.
"Tomorrow is our last night," She pulled the sheet to cover her breasts, and relaxed into Vin's shoulder.
"Mmmm," He replied running his hand through her tangled hair.
"It was good, right? Fun?" She asked hesitantly, feeling the glow of their love making. She didn't say anything further. Vin understood why. He wanted to admit that he cared for her, but it wasn't possible. It was all going to end and it was better to have limited emotional involvement. Tanner rested momentarily on the edge of the bed, and grabbed his jeans off the floor.
"I'll take you back to the hotel." He slipped them on and went to the living room for his shirt and car keys.
Chris slipped on his dark aviator sunglasses, closing out the rays of a sharp sun. Thank God tomorrow these people would be on a plane. The whole assignment had boiled down to no f***in information. They all just had to get through the ceremony and ball tonight and they were home free. Larabee couldn't wait for the next assignment, an arson case. This was the last time he played bodyguard no matter if it lead to illegal gun dealings with the Pope. Putting up with all this sh** sucked. He nodded to Vin and Ezra posted near the door by a towering floral arrangement, and made sure Nathan and Josiah were at their points near the crowd. The Emir's personal guards had taken the higher ground on top of the department store across the street. He gave them a quick wave and they responded with a thumbs up sign.
The Emir and his daughter were posing in front of the ribbon set up twenty feet from the entrance of the hotel, flanked by the United States and Bahrain flags. One snip and a few questions from the reporters and they were closer to being finished. The strains of the Bahrainian national anthem were being performed by a local chamber orchestra. Intermingled with the song came the ringing from his cell phone. He flipped it open, blocking one of his ears so he could hear the conversation.
"Larabee," Chris stated.
He heard Buck's familiar voice reply. "We got a problem." Wilmington's sounded urgent. "There's a bomb in here."
The leader sighed. He was so close to this being a good day. He glanced at the large crowd gathered. Grinding his teeth he responded. "Get the hotel evacuated from the back, and call the bomb squad."
Buck was trying to tell him something else, but it was drown out by the sound of gunshots and high-pitched screaming. Chris dove to the ground landing on the edge of the red carpet. On his elbows his tried to get closer to the Emir. The shots were coming from above. Shit! The Emir's men had been taken out. The phone was still clutched in his left hand. He yelled into the phone, before he snapped it shut.
"Damnit! We got are own problems!" A car had just blocked off part of the street and two men began firing into the crowd.
JD and Buck had been doing a quick walk through the hotel's back area. Buck was glad this whole assignment was over. JD felt the same. The two roommates had been joking with each other, happy their assignment, as glorified wait staff would be ending soon. Wilmington was regaling the young agent on his latest acquisition of a phone number. At least the hotel had been filled with a pretty staff.
JD squinted his eyes in disbelief. "So what? You told her you were really a secret agent doing work for the government?"
Buck smiled his blue eyes wide. JD had made it sound like he had told Clarissa he was James Bond. He was much better looking than that British guy. "It's the truth!"
The young agent shook his head. "Yeah, but she believed it. Go figure."
The older agent gave the young man a quick push in the shoulder. JD tried to dodge the shove, but Buck had already compensated for the maneuver and Dunne landed near some mops in the corner. With a smile, Wilmington offered him a hand. JD grabbed it, and was almost fully upright when Buck let go.
His eyes zeroed in on the glowing lights by Dunne's side. "JD, we've got a problem."
Dunne frowned at being dropped again. He jumped back when he saw the bomb with numbers counting back from thirty minutes. "Sh**!"
Wilmington quickly punched in his boss's number. He looked doubtfully at the phone as he closed it. "Come on," he told JD who was examining the wiring of the bomb. As they got to the lobby they could hear the gunfire. Buck had already explained that the team was under attack outside. They crouched low; to avoid any stray bullets and made their way to the conceriege, who was cowering behind his desk.
"Parker, evacuate the hotel," Buck yelled to the man over the cacophony of the screaming outside which could be heard in the usually silent lobby.
The man sputtered and tried to bend further into the fetal position. "There's gunfire out there! You're crazy!"
Buck reached out and shook the man, wrinkling the pristine gray lapels. "There's a bomb in here! Call the bomb squad and get people evacuated out the back!" He pushed the man down, and saw him scramble away, wild-eyed.
"Now!" JD ordered, and gained a modicum of satisfaction as the Concierge gulped, and fumbled to the phone.
Buck gave a quick wink to Clarissa, who was sitting against the wall, covering her ears, before making his way back to the bomb with JD. He looked out the lobby doors and hoped the team was holding their own.
Why didn't she get down? Vin thought. The Princess seemed rooted in her spot, frozen in the red carpet while gunfire sprayed around her. Tanner gave Standish a quick nod and ran. Ezra fired, providing cover. In a few strides Vin started to dive for Kamilah to knock her down to the ground where she would be safer. He was propelled into her, uncontrollably, as he felt a stabbing pain. He landed jarringly on top of the princess. He sucked in a quick breath as he felt Kamilah move beneath him. She had pressed her hand against the bullet wound. He groaned, but no one heard it over the gunfire and the screaming coming from the Emir's daughter. He pulled her face roughly to him. She blinked a couple of times until she realized she was staring at a familiar face.
Vin gave her a lopsided grin, even though he could feel a burning pain in his stomach. He kept her body covered, firing at the spot where he had seen the nose of a rifle. The shot hit true and the gunfire from that direction ceased. He pulled her arm, making her crawl with him as they made their way to cover by Chris and the Emir. They were huddled near an overturned table. Larabee gave him a quick nod, but did not notice the blood, which Vin covered with his arm. He pointed to the car, and both of them concentrated on the men shooting at them.
JD took off the plate covering the intricacies of the bomb. They had fifteen minutes left. He saw the different colored wires-blue, red, green. He just didn't know.
Buck was by his side, breathing down his neck. Why did he have to have an onion bagel for breakfast? "You're fresher out of the academy, you should be able to diffuse this bomb."
Dunne shook his head. When was the bomb squad going to get there? He didn't want to take the responsibility if he f***ed the whole thing up.
"Don't you remember? Plus, you're the computer expert what the hell do they pay you for?" Wilmington whispered, touching one of the wires.
JD slapped his hand away. "SHUT UP Buck! You're an ATF agent too!"
Tensions were running high for both agents. Dunne took in a ragged breath and heard his roommate sigh.
"Okay JD, let's say we make an educated guess, pick a wire and hope for the best." Buck gave the young agent a nod.
JD licked the sweat, which had beaded up on his upper lip. "You sure?"
"Yep, son," Buck answered, grasping JD's hand that held the wire cutters.
Dunne moved to the red wire. He closed his eyes as he squeezed the cutters, clamping down on the wire. He heard the snap and waited, holding his breath. Nothing happened. JD peeled one eye open. Buck still had his eyes squeezed shut.
"Buck! We're still alive!" Dunne exclaimed, joy making him bounce up from his sitting position.
Wilmington jumped up also, giving a loud, "WOOP!" before grabbing the young agent in a hug. JD threw his arms around his roommate glad they were alive.
Once it had sunk in, they both backed off, taking a step back to regain their masculinity. Guys just didn't hug, JD thought. They could hear more gunfire coming through the hotel. The agents took off in a dead run.
Josiah and Nathan had maneuvered themselves through the crowd. They were making their way to the building. Nathan saw the wounded whimpering, blood was staining the street. He wanted to help them, but his first job was to take out the men on the roof. Neither agent looked back to see how their teammates were fairing. Luckily the department store was only four levels, and quickly they ran up the deserted escalators. All the shoppers in the store were huddled in unmoving fear.
Josiah with a swift kick knocked down the door. It crashed forward and they ran on top of it.
"ATF!" Nathan yelled out, keeping his gun ready, "Put your weapons down!"
The terrorists turned around, guns at the ready. Josiah gave out a primeval yell, and shot one of the men, while Jackson took out the other.
Sanchez checked over the men, and kicked their weapons away. "Never get between a man and a game of golf." He told the unconscious assailants.
Nathan reminded himself to take Josiah's love of golf very serious. He went to the edge of the building to look out and help out his friends stuck in the hell below. Nathan smiled at seeing his assistance was not required.
Buck and JD plowed though the lobby doors blazing a trail that allowed Ezra, Vin and Chris to take out the three criminals in the small white Ford Escort. The gunfire had finally stopped.
"Looks like things are settling down there Brother," Josiah said, still watching over the two criminals.
Jackson looked back; hoping no one had died today. From above he could see people trying to help the numerous injured people. Ambulance sirens could be heard and the blue police lights were giving a surreal blue glow.
He didn't notice Larabee trying to get his attention right away. When he did he saw Chris was cradling a body. It was Vin.
"So when we went back in with the bomb squad," JD took another sip from his carton of milk. "We posted pictures of the bald concierage all over the place." Dunne wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "You should have seen his face." The young agent grinned, and started to laugh.
Vin could picture the scene but didn't want to start laughing and pull at the staples in his belly. He had been in surgery for five hours. The doctors patched up his stomach and jokingly told him there would be no junk food for a while. Tanner had a feeling Standish told them to say that, since Ezra found his eating habits disgusting. Heaven was a Hostess Snowball.
JD was filling Vin in on what he had missed during the hours of surgery. It was discovered that the terrorists were from Bahrain. Instead of protesting in their own country about the conditions and atrocities they decided to take another approach. Although there had been bombings of government areas in Bahrain, this was the first time they had attacked the leader directly.
"The Emir was happy we saved his ass and decided as a reward he would tell Chris about some new players in the gun smuggling business." Dunne concluded his story with a smile.
Vin moved his legs trying to find a more comfortable position amongst the wires and machinery monitoring his body. He hated being in the hospital. Chris and the others were escorting the Emir and his daughter to the airstrip. Buck had taken Vin's post, although it had been offered to JD first. Dunne wanted to hang out with Tanner. In addition Ezra felt that the princess, "would be immune to Agent Wilmington's animal magnetism."
A bet ended up being made, and Buck was bodyguard for a day. Vin hoped the ladies man wasn't going to lose too much money.
JD flicked through the channels on the TV. Both were enjoying watching Jerry Springer when there was a faint knock before Chris strode in.
"Hey cowboy, seems as though the Princess wants to thank you before she heads outta town." Larabee announced, standing at the foot of the laid up sharpshooter's bed.
Vin thought she would just leave town. It would have been easier. It would have kept their unvoiced agreement of no strings attached.
He had gripped her hand before falling unconscious at the hotel. Ezra had told him she had stayed by his side until the Emir made her go inside to the safety of the Saint Regis.
"You up to it?" Chris asked when Vin didn't reply right away. His green eyes filled with concern.
"Yeah, send her in." He said as he cleared his head from the reverie he had been in. Larabee opened the door and signaled her to come forward.
The sunglasses were propped on the top of her head holding back her cascade of dark hair. She was wearing a dark blue pants suit that made her look overly thin and frail. She looked over at Vin, slightly turning up the corner of her lips until she noticed JD and Chris were still in the room.
"Can I have a moment of privacy?" She did not say it as a question. It sounded more like an order.
Vin gave the two men a nod and they left room, pulling the door closed behind them.
Tanner hit the mute button on the television.
"They say you're going to be fine." She came towards him, sitting on the side of the bed.
"Yep, " he replied trying not to get lost in the smell of her.
"I wanted to say thank you," she gave him a kiss on the cheek, and stayed suspended above him for a moment.
"Isn't this the way it started?" he commented in a whisper. He raised his left hand. The IV was attached to his other hand, and she grasped it tightly.
"Maybe I'll see you sometime?" She said breathlessly without looking at him. She just kept staring at their clasped hands.
"Maybe," he didn't know what to say. It was over; Vin didn't play the what if game. The Princess didn't understand and for her he pretended. He could at least do that.
She patted his hand and stood up. "Goodbye," she stated and dropped the sunglasses down over her eyes. She made her way at the door, pausing a moment before she regained the bearing of royalty instead of that of a woman leaving behind a lover.
The guys were waiting outside; Vin could hear Buck,
"Your Highness can I escort you to your vehicle?"
She must have turned him down because when JD returned to Tanner's room he said, "Guess animal magnetism doesn't work on royalty."
Vin gave the young man a lopsided grin. They would never know.
It had been three months since the Emir and his daughter had left Denver. Vin was back on duty and there were no side effects from the gunshot wound. He had stopped by McDonalds's for a couple of Egg McMuffins. He brought his packaged goodies into the conference room, along with the cup of coffee he had made as soon as he got into the office. No one was in yet, so Vin put the television on CNN to catch up with the news. It was easier to watch it than to read it in the paper.
He had finished his last bite and had gotten up to throw away the trash. The ceramic mug was cradled in his hand. Effortlessly, he made the shot in the garbage can. He smirked at the thud, nothing but net, he thought.
He was still smiling when he turned to see what the pretty blonde on CNN was talking about.
"The Emir of Bahrain was just in this country a few months ago. After surviving an assignation attempt by his own people, he decided to become stricter with the populace. Bahrainis chafed against the additional restrictions finally retaliating with this heinous act."
A picture of the princess came up on the screen, her hair was blowing and she was waving to a crowd. A helicopter was near by, and she boarded it. Vin could see she was still smiling. In an instant the helicopter took off and exploded before the sharpshooter's eyes.
He dropped the coffee mug, not hearing it as it shattered into pieces. The liquid inside splashed out, quickly absorbed by the dark carpeting. For a moment it all crashed down on him. She was gone.
Chris's voice brought him back to the present. "Hey, we've got a meeting in ten minutes did you read the information?"
He cleared his throat, not trusting his voice and not willing to show that anything was wrong. "Yep, see ya in a few."
When he looked back at the TV, CNN had already moved onto another breaking story. Softly he pushed in the knob and the screen turned to black.
Maybe one day when he was good and drunk he would talk about the Princess in vague terms so no one knew whom he was talking about. That day wasn't today. He would shake his head when he heard the news and nothing else. He would be there to support Ezra, who still believed the Princess had deep feelings for him. Vin bent down, his knees giving a resounding crack, to pick up the shattered pieces of the mug