Excerpt: The Christmas Package

Allen pulled his gun and aimed it at the asshole who was officially T minus fifty-nine seconds from being dead. He generally preferred to keep his daily body count to three, but he was willing to add a fourth under the circumstances.

“He’s not worth killing,” Jack said.

He didn’t take his eyes off his new target, but he could still see his totaled Bentley Continental from the corner of his eye. “Yes, he is. Do you know what I had to do to get that fucking car?”

“Kill somebody?” Jack replied dryly.

Allen shot him a disgusted look, then snapped his attention back to the asshole who had wrecked his baby. “You will hold still or I will make certain the bullet I put in you causes a very slow and painful death. Do you understand me?”

The guy nodded hastily, and lifted his hands in a show of surrender that was so fucking stupid Allen almost rolled his eyes. He’d worked his ass off for that car, taken the shittiest job on the planet for it and all he’d wanted was to enjoy the rest of his day but no—the easy job had turned difficult, it was snowing like hell when the forecast had said clear, Christmas was the day after tomorrow and he still didn’t know what to buy Jack, and now his favorite car was totaled.

His mood had officially gone from bad to worse, and somebody was going to get a bullet in the head. He kept the gun steady and jerked his chin in the direction of the ruin that had been his car. “You have ten seconds to tell me how you’re going to make me feel better, or I’ll do it myself by applying this entire magazine to your torso region.”

Jack sighed. Allen ignored him. All he’d wanted was for one thing to go right. It should have been an easy day. Wake up. Go to breakfast with Jack. Go kill Mr. Waterstone. Go home. Wait ’til Jack feel asleep, then sneak out to try and do some Christmas shopping. The only blemish on his day should have been a phone call from his mouth.

But no—the snow had knocked the power out so they’d woken up late, the roads were too much of a mess for breakfast to be worth the hassle, one simple assignment to kill a pedophilic business tycoon had turned into a three-body job, his mother hadn’t bothered to call all damn day, and Jack had been in a bad mood throughout.

He should never have had the Bentley brought to him, but goddammit, he had wanted something to perk him up. Now his prize possession was junkyard material because some asshole couldn’t properly operate his Dodge Ram. Allen really wanted to shoot somebody.

“If you shoot him,” Jack said with patience that he obviously did not feel, “then we’ll have to hide the body and we’ll be out here even longer. Just take his fucking keys and let’s get the hell out of here.”

“T-t-tak’em, m-man,” the guy said, eyes nearly popping out of his head at Jack’s casual observation about hiding his body. He held out the keys still held in his right hand, dangling from an obnoxious John Deere key ring.

Allen sighed long and loud, but took the keys with his free hand. Pocketing them, he put his gun away—then grabbed the guy, sank a fist into his gut, then clipped the back of his head, knocking him out. Catching the idiot over his shoulder, Allen carted him across the street to a house that looked like it had plenty of activity. He left the guy on the covered porch, right against the front door, then strode back to where Jack had already climbed into the bed of the truck.

He took one last look at his poor car, and went through it to clear out the extra guns stashed in it, removed the license plates, then finally joined Jack. Starting up the largely unscathed pick up, he slowly pulled back and out, wincing as a piece fell off his car. “I really wish you had let me shoot him,” he groused.

The words actually drew a smile—a real smile—from Jack. Allen hated dating—well, did they call it dating? What did they call it? He wasn’t certain delivering dubious packages and the odd hit were dating but they weren’t really the go to the movies kind of guys—

Anyway, whatever they were doing, it would be a hell of a lot easier if Jack was easier to read. Just when Allen thought he had Jack down, he was left guessing again. Allen was pretty certain he’d never met a better poker face. The world would never know how lucky they were that Jack had ratted out his family instead of taking over the family business. “If you’d shot him, we’d still be in the snow and probably dealing with cops. Remind me to chew out Avery later; that house was supposed to be clear and that’s the second time he’s given us poor information. If I wanted you to take shitty jobs, I’d get you shitty jobs. If you really want to kill someone else today, shoot Avery.”

“You spoil me,” Allen replied, and Jack laughed. Some of the tension leaked from Allen’s shoulders, and he dared to hope that maybe he was just losing his mind, and things were okay, and Jack didn’t actually seem as moody and withdrawn as he had lately. “So what shall we do the rest of the day?”

“Sleep?” Jack replied. “We seem to get little enough of that.”

Maybe he wasn’t losing his mind. Allen stifled a twinge of disappointment. The days of Rio and going to dinner between fire fights seemed long gone. He supposed he should just be happy he set a new record; before Jack his longest relationship had been four and a half weeks. Six months was practically a “We seem to get little enough of everything except gunshots and plans gone wrong. It’s only five o’clock-ish, we could go do something.”

“And get shot at again? No thanks. It’s Christmas Eve—all the crazies are out. I’m staying in.”

Allen tried not to wilt at those words, but it was hard. He had no interest in anything stupid and normal, but another night of ‘stay in the motel’ – okay, fine. Maybe it might be nice to have a little bit of normal for once.

But shit, he couldn’t even come up with a present. Jack probably didn’t even give a damn; if Allen knew him at all he knew that. His mom would be the first to remind him (with a slap upside the head) that wasn’t the point.

The point was to make Jack happy; Allen just wished he knew without a doubt that he was the best man for that job. Stifling a sigh, he drove the rest of the way back to their motel in silence, fervently hoping that the power was back on. It was tricky going with all the snow, but the pick-up handled it better than his poor Bentley. He really should have left his baby in storage, but what was done was done, as his mother liked to say.

They reached the motel and Allen led the way to their room, swiping his card and pushing the door open, sighing in relief when he flipped the light switch and the room filled with dull yellow light. He grimaced at the ugly bedspread, wondering what it was about motels that the bedspreads always had to be ugly as fuck and not match a single other thing in the room. The fact that this time it almost matched the hideous striped walls was, he suspected, pure dumb luck.

Moving to the little table by the window, he shrugged out of his winter coat and hung it over one of the chairs, then stripped off his leather gloves and set them down. Finally he pulled out the gun he wore in a shoulder holster, as well as the smaller one strapped to his ankle. Checking them both over, he set one on the nightstand and slid the other beneath his pillow.

Sitting down at the table, he stretched his legs out and wished fervently that they were anywhere but another crappy motel. He wanted to be back in his bed, the one he saw only a handful of times a year and never for very long. The one he really hoped he’d be able to show Jack someday.

Jack discarded his own winter clothes and strode across the room to the minifridge, bending to pull out two cans of beer. He walked back over to Allen and held out one of the beers. Allen ignored it in favor of grabbing Jack’s wrist and tugging him close and down, then kissing him. Jack immediately responded, and Allen heard the thump of the unopened beers hitting the floor as Jack tried to straddle dim. When the cheap motel chair prevented it, Allen stood up and pushed Jack down onto the bed, straddling him and diving right back in for another kiss.

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