Excerpt

Disarming a Raider

 

Chapter One

Maze

 

MAZE ROMERO buttoned up his dress shirt but left the top two unbuttoned and shrugged into his suit jacket. He glanced into the mirror one last time, not liking what he saw staring back at him. Indifference. Carelessness. It reflected the numbness he felt to a tee. Those were things that got men like him killed. Not that he had much to live for, anyway. If it hadn’t been for his brother, he would’ve thrown away his life years ago.

He’d shaved, and the little, white scar above his lip was stark against his darker skin. Experience told him leaving the scar visible made him look more frightening, and he’d need that today. Meeting with his famiglia was always like playing a dangerous, complicated game of who was the biggest and the baddest. He’d never liked playing games. But he didn’t have a choice.

He stepped away from the mirror and grabbed his phone from the nightstand. He had a few new messages and one missed call. He checked the messages and groaned when he saw one from his aunt telling him she’d found a nice, Italian girl he should meet. It was the last thing he needed today. Or any day for that matter.

He headed out of his room and walked down the stairs. Once he reached the entrance hall, his housekeeper stood waiting for him by the door, her sweet smile turned his way when she saw him. Her blonde curls were tamed into a ponytail, and her bright pink nails matched her shoes and eyeshadow.

“Mr. Romero,” she said, waiting for him to reach her.

“Amelia,” he said and raised an eyebrow at her.

She was no older than twenty-five, but she knew how to do her job and do it well. No matter what he asked of her, she’d do it without question because that was the kind of loyalty she had for him. Saving her from the streets at sixteen and making sure no one from her past would ever hurt her again was one of the best decisions he’d ever made. She thrived and had done so since Maze’s old housekeeper Mariana had taken her under her wing and showed her the ropes of the Romero household.

“Will you return in time for dinner?” Amelia asked.

“Don’t count on it,” he said.

Amelia narrowed her eyes at him and pursed her lips. “I’ll have Mauricio make your favorite and put it in the fridge, so you can eat it when you’re hungover tomorrow.”

“You know me so well,” Maze said, a smile playing on his lips.

Amelia nodded, her expression serious as she said, “I do. I also know these damned meetings always drains you, and I don’t like it. Those bastards can drive anyone to drink. I’ll put a glass of water and some painkiller on your nightstand as well.”

“What would I ever do without you?”

He placed a kiss on her cheek when she turned it to him and then she waved him away, a cheeky look covering her face.

“You’d have starved or worse,” Amelia said, laughter in her voice.

He chuckled under his breath as he walked away from her. He pushed through the front door and stopped halfway down the front steps to look up at the blue sky. It was such a lovely day, the temperatures spiking more and more every day, and yet here he was, stuck in a suit. With a shake of his head, he continued down the stairs. The car, a sleek, black Mercedes was parked in the driveway, just off to the side of the entrance. When he neared, his driver, Tony, opened the car door for him. He got into the back seat, and before Tony closed the door, Maze’s most trusted enforcer slid into the seat next to him.

“Don’t you have something better to do?” Maze asked.

Nico shook his head. “No. I was rather bored, actually.”

“Liar.”

“Like I’d let you go alone,” Nico said.

Maze sighed and leaned back in his seat just as the car took off. The last thing he wanted today was to argue with Nico. He’d have enough of that where he was headed. His family was destructive at best. He wasn’t surprised Nico was accompanying him, though. Since he’d taken over from his father, Nico had been at his side for every family meeting, swearing he’d never let Maze go there without protection.

Maze’s phone rang, and when he saw who the caller was, a wicked smile spread on his lips.

“Arkady,” Maze said into his phone.

He felt Nico go rigid next to him and chanced a glance at his best friend. Nico was glaring at him, so he grinned back and put Arkady on speaker.

“Maze. How are things on your end?” Arkady asked.

“They’re coming along nicely. Slowly, but nicely.”

“Good. That’s good,” Arkady said and cleared his throat. “Something funny happened at my party last night. I met your brother.”

“So I heard,” Maze said, his lips quirking when he remembered his brother’s somewhat frantic call about it.

“I knew it wasn’t you when he said he didn’t want to involve me so I’d have plausible deniability. You couldn’t give less of a shit about that,” Arkady said.

“That’s very true. My brother must have forgotten just how ruthless this life makes a person,” Maze said.

“Well, I thought it’d be funny if I kissed him.”

Maze snorted out a laugh. “You didn’t.”

Nico shifted in his seat, and Maze quite enjoyed seeing his friend squirm. Nico kept his mouth closed, but the fire burning in his dark green eyes spoke for itself.

“Oh, but I did. He went along with it, too. In that department, he doesn’t seem to have forgotten how you do things.”

The sullen look on Nico’s face was enough to bring a smile to his lips, but the thought of his brother having to kiss Arkady made a laugh rumble out of him. He sobered up quickly, though, knowing the phone calls from Arkady were few and far between for a reason.

“I take it you didn’t call to tell me you made out with my brother,” Maze said.

“I didn’t. I called because there’s trouble in the south London area. I’m going there myself to check it out, but I believe it is my former associates’ doing. I’m afraid it might put a halt to our plans if I can’t solve this problem fast enough.”

“You’ll need some help then. I’ll send Nico to you,” Maze said.

“What?” Nico blurted.

“Ah. Domenico,” Arkady said, his voice turning deep and sultry, his Russian accent coming out clearer. “I look forward to working with you again.”

When Nico refused to say anything and only glared at Maze, he said, “That’s settled then.”

“Good. I’ll see you soon, Domenico.”

Nico was Maze’s most trusted man and his lifelong friend. They’d never kept secrets from each other. There were very few people who knew about his sexuality and Nico and Davin had been the first he’d told. He’d believed for years that he was bisexual but after his parents’ deaths, he realized he’d only been trying to appease his father.

It was only five months earlier when Nico had discovered his bisexuality or given in to it was more accurate. It had happened when Maze’s new business partner showed up to seal their deal and make plans for their future cooperation. That partner was none other than Arkady, and with Maze’s blessing, it hadn’t taken him long to lure Nico into his bed. Of course, when Arkady left for England, Nico claimed he’d never get involved with Arkady again because if it went wrong, he would risk Maze and Arkady’s partnership. Personally, Maze thought it was because Nico felt more for Arkady than he ever had for anyone else and he was afraid of what it might mean. As it was, Maze was more than fine with Nico and Arkady having a relationship. He wanted his best friend to be happy, which was why he was pushing them together. Men like them didn’t often get a shot at happily ever after, so he’d push Nico if he had to. If Arkady did hurt Nico, he might put a bullet or two in the man, but they’d both been in the business long enough not to let a lover’s spat get in the way of what they were trying to accomplish with their partnership.

“You bastard,” Nico growled.

“I’m sorry, Domenico. What was that?”

Nico might be his best friend, but he was also his enforcer, his family, and he knew better than to disrespect Maze.

Nico grumbled under his breath. “Nothing, sir.”

“Good. Let’s get this over with so we can get drunk before your flight tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan, boss.”

When they pulled up in front of the townhouse, Maze took in the beautiful place that was home to so many ugly people. It never ceased to amaze him. Tony opened the door for them and Nico slid out first, a hand on the gun at his hip. Nico might be overprotective, but it made him good at his job. Nico stayed right behind his left side as they walked inside. Nico would never leave him alone in that house. These people might be family, but the word had a different meaning to them. There weren’t many here who hadn’t hurt or killed another member of said family. Himself included.

He glanced around the room. His second cousins Marcello, Giorgio, and Vanni stood by the fireplace, their heads close together as they talked. Those three were closer than most in the family. Giorgio and Vanni’s father, Stefano, was sitting on the couch with a glass of his favorite Italian wine which he’d enjoyed for a while if the half-empty bottle on the coffee table was any indication. Stefano’s wife, Arianna, stood a few feet away talking to Marcello’s mother, Celia, and they were both glaring in Stefano’s direction. Nothing new there.

Maze caught sight of one of his first cousins and couldn’t hold back a groan because she’d seen him as well. She headed straight for him, her entourage of bodyguards scrambling to keep up with her. She stopped right in front of him, a smile playing on her dark red lips.

“Caterina,” Maze said. “I didn’t think you’d be here.”

She huffed and said, “But of course I am, Maze. This is a family matter.”

It wasn’t that he thought she didn’t want to come. He just knew her father. Most of the old-timers, Caterina’s father included, still thought women belonged in the kitchen when they weren’t pushing out children. But he knew a lot of the younger generation—his and Caterina’s especially—didn’t believe in misogyny. Caterina was an only child, and she wanted to take over after her father, but he’d been grooming someone else for the job. He wasn’t sure if Caterina would kill her father’s protégé, but she was certainly ruthless enough. He might find the woman annoying as all hell, but that didn’t stop him from seeing her true worth and she deserved that spot more than any of the men in the room.

“Any idea what this family matter is about?”

Caterina shook her head. A server was on his way past them with a tray of filled whiskey glasses but he stopped briefly in front of Caterina who took two glasses from him and handed Maze one.

“I have a feeling today will be a long day,” Caterina said and raised her glass.

Maze clinked his glass with hers and said, “To surviving the next few hours.”

Half an hour later, they sat down at the table in the conference room, Caterina’s father, Philip, at the head of the table. Philip’s protégé, Luca, a man some believed to be Philip’s bastard son, sat down at Philip’s right side. He was Philip’s advisor, and after Maze’s father’s death, he’d also become Philip’s right-hand man. Maze had only ever seen the man look bored and today was no exception.

When Maze sat down, Nico placed himself behind Maze’s chair with his hands on the backrest.

“I have called you all here because of an urgent matter,” Philip said and glanced around the room. “We have a traitor in our midst.”

Maze froze as a sliver of terror tore through him. It was but a second, and hopefully, he recovered before anyone noticed. Showing any kind of vulnerability among his family could get him killed or worse.

“Someone has been sabotaging our shipments. The Feds poking their ugly heads into our business is to be expected, but them raiding two of my warehouses in seven weeks certainly is not.”

“Why did you wait so long?” Caterina asked, her voice sounding a bit breathy.

Philip turned his cold eyes on her. “Because I thought it was someone in my own house.”

Caterina’s mouth dropped open as she stared at him in shock. Without actually saying the words, he indirectly said he’d thought it might be her. That wasn’t the part Caterina was shocked by. That would be him being so brash about it.

“But you don’t anymore,” Maze noted.

“No. Because I know it’s not.”

Maze’s cousin, Vincent, pushed his chair back with enough force to topple it. “Are you accusing one of us?”

“No. I do not believe anyone in our family would betray us.” Philip turned his gaze on Nico. “But some of our men aren’t family.”

Anger surged through Maze and he pushed to his feet.

“Say that again,” he snarled at Philip.

Nico laid a hand on Maze’s shoulder, and it was the only thing holding him back from jumping across the table to wrap his hands around Philip’s throat.

“Nico is a made man. He’s one of my men. There is no one more loyal to me than him. If you’re accusing him of something, then you’re accusing me, too,” Maze said.

“You care a lot about your man, don’t you? A little too much,” Philip said.

“He’s family,” Maze hissed through his teeth.

“Is that what they call it nowadays?”

Papà,” Caterina said and shook her head at him. “Let’s concentrate on the task at hand: finding the traitor. I guarantee you it’s not my cousin nor is it Nico.”

Philip narrowed his eyes at her. “And you’re willing to stake your life on that? The lives of your family?”

When Caterina looked at her father, she was composed and her voice clear. “I am.”

Nico didn’t move a muscle, but Maze still felt his unease like it was his own. They both knew Caterina was only siding with them because she’d need them if she were to take over after her father. She knew very well Maze preferred men in his bed but since she herself had been in Nico’s far too many times for Maze to count, she’d be in as much trouble as him if anyone found out. Not only that, but he was certain Nico was dear to her. Which would make her weak in the eyes of their family.

“You all need to clean house,” Philip said and stood. “You have until my next shipment.”

With that, Philip turned and left them, Luca right on his heels. The second the door closed behind them, Vincent was out of his chair and screaming at Maze across the table. Vincent was a hothead, the worst of their volatile family, but luckily for him, he had it all in his mouth. He would threaten anyone if they as much as looked at him for longer than he thought they should, but he didn’t act on those threats with as much impulsiveness as he spat them out.

Philip had given them one day to find out what he hadn’t been able to in seven weeks. It was his way of making sure everyone knew he was in charge. It was a shit move, and he knew it. Maze wouldn’t be doing any “cleaning” because he knew his men weren’t behind the sabotage.

Maze yelled back at Vincent until Nico wrapped a hand around his elbow and gently pulled him toward the exit. Maze grumbled under his breath the whole way but didn’t pull away from Nico’s hold. Once outside the door, Maze stopped to close his eyes and draw in a deep breath. Nico let go of him, but he stayed right behind Maze, his presence helping Maze to calm down. He felt someone step up on his right side, and since Nico hadn’t done or said anything, he knew it wasn’t someone who wanted him dead right then.

“What a shitshow.”

Maze turned his head to look at Caterina. Her lips were pursed for a second before she sighed. She looked up at Maze with her big brown eyes and a dangerous smile widened her lips.

“Let’s go get drunk, shall we?” Caterina asked.

A smile worked at Maze’s lips, and there was no hesitation in his answer. “Let’s.”

 

Axel

 

Axel stepped through the front door and dropped his bag on the floor. He followed Davin into his kitchen. It was a small but open apartment. Very modern too. It probably cost more than double of Axel’s apartment in Washington, even though Davin’s was half the size.

“So this is where you’ve been staying in Brooklyn,” Axel said.

Davin nodded and leaned back against the counter.

“You’re an ass,” Axel said.

A smile pulled at Davin’s lips. “Yeah, I am.”

They’d just returned from England that day, and the four-hour drive on top of the flight was catching up to him. He didn’t expect to get jetlagged, but he could sure use a good night’s sleep.

Davin opened the fridge and took out two bottles of water, handing Axel one of them. He unscrewed the cap and took a swig. The cold water did him good, and he drank half the bottle before heading into the living room. He put the bottle down on the coffee table and walked around it to sit on the couch. His phone rang, and he groaned loudly before fishing it out of his jeans pocket and answering.

“Hello. I’m looking for Axel Bates.”

“Speaking.”

“My name is Randy Sutton. I’m an attorney. I’m calling to inform you that your great-aunt has passed away.”

“Who?”

“Patricia Bates. You’re her only living relative and therefore the only beneficiary. Is it possible you could come in for her will reading?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Excuse me?”

“Look, asshat. You just said I’m her only living relative, that made her my last relative at all. Which means the bitch left me in foster care for nine years. So. What’s in it for me?”

Randy sighed heavily, but just as Axel was getting ready to hang up, Randy said, “A hefty sum of money and a cabin in Tennessee, among other things.”

“Where do I have to go and when?”

“Eight o’clock tomorrow morning, if possible,” Randy said and rattled off some address on Manhattan.

“I’ll see you then,” Axel said and hung up.

He put his phone on the coffee table and leaned back against the couch cushions. He tipped his head back to look up at Davin, who stood behind the couch with two glasses and a bottle of bourbon in his hands.

“What was that?” Davin asked, a concerned frown on his forehead.

“Just some aunt of mine who died so we’ll have to reschedule this bonding session of ours.”

Davin rolled his eyes and bumped the side of Axel’s head with his arm. “Screw you.”

“You keep saying that, but you never let me,” Axel said with a wry smile.

When they’d first met, he’d been interested in Davin but as soon as he found out the guy was straight, he’d laid off and they’d become best friends. It didn’t stop him from teasing Davin about it, though. But fucking Davin would be like fucking a brother, and that was never going to happen. It just wasn’t right.

Davin walked around the couch and sat down next to Axel, who took the glass Davin offered him. After opening the bottle, Davin poured him a big glass of bourbon. Axel took a sip, keeping the alcohol in his mouth for a moment before he swallowed.

“So. You and the con girl?”

Davin’s sigh was heavy, and he leaned back against the couch cushions, his eyes closing as he sucked in a sharp breath. Axel knew his best friend well enough to know Davin was struggling to find the right words.

“How did you two meet?”

“We met at an art exhibit,” Davin said, shaking his head as a fond smile found his lips.

Axel stared at him in disbelief. “What the hell were you doing at an art exhibit?”

Davin chuckled and threw back what was left of the bourbon in his glass.

“I was meeting with an old acquaintance. It was a safe space for us to meet and she always did like her art, so I indulged her. After we were done and I was headed for the exit, Grace quite literally ran into me. The first time I looked into those brilliant, blue eyes of hers, I knew she was special. It took me a few seconds to realize she was in a bit of a rut, but when I did, I just couldn’t let anything happen to her.

“She never asked any questions when I came to her bloody and bruised. Never questioned my nightmares. She was just there, talking to me and calming me down. I never really cared what she did, and I knew. From the first time we met, I knew she was a thief. A piece was stolen from that exhibit the same day. It didn’t take much to figure out it was her, and I thought if I never asked and she never told me, then it just wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t get in the way.

“I don’t know exactly what she thought I did, but I’m certain she never once figured I might be a fed. Which is lucky for me, because if she had, I would’ve lost her much sooner than I did.”

“You’re damned lucky I like your girl so much, or I’d be kicking your ass right now,” Axel grunted.

“I know and I’m sorry for keeping it a secret. I was being a wuss because I thought it would all become too real if I shared it with you. I wasn’t ready to admit to anyone, let alone myself, that I was in love with her,” Davin said. “But I do know how lucky I am to have you in my life.”

Axel rolled his eyes and sat up to grab the bottle of bourbon from the coffee table. He filled up both their glasses. He raised his glass toward Davin and said, “I love you, too, you asshole.”

 

Axel

 

He needed coffee. Actually, he needed something stronger. Much stronger. But it was only ten in the morning, so he’d settle for a strong, black cup of coffee. Finding the nearest coffee shop wouldn’t be a problem because Franklin had installed some app on his phone which showed all the coffee places nearby, and it even led you to them.

It took no more than five minutes to walk from the attorney’s office to the little coffee shop on Barclay Street. He ordered a double espresso and a chocolate croissant. The shop only had two tiny tables out front, but the AC inside was killing him. He sat down with a sigh and took a well-deserved sip of his coffee.

The meeting with his great-aunt’s lawyer had gone over as well as he’d expected. Her lawyer had barely restrained himself from sneering at him when he’d walked in the door. He was wearing his black-and-white-checkered Vans, a faded pair of blue jeans, and a T-shirt that showed off his muscles and tattoos. The dude was lucky he hadn’t been carrying. Davin had talked him out of it last night, saying the lawyer people might call the cops on him, which he’d found hilarious, but Davin had gotten through to him in the end and he’d left his gun and holster in the safe at Davin’s apartment.

He sat back in his chair and ate his croissant while people watching. He’d always loved observing other people. You could learn a lot from the way someone dressed or walked. But even more so from the things they did without noticing. A man stopped in front of a shop on the other side of the street. His dark hair and complexion were what got Axel’s attention at first. Then his eyes zeroed in on the firm, round ass in a pair of dark blue dress pants. He got a glimpse of the man’s profile and sat up straight.

Was that…Davin?

Wasn’t he supposed to be in Brooklyn, waiting for his girl to realize she couldn’t live without him? The man looked over his shoulder, and Axel got a better view of him. It was Davin. But he’d just talked to him, and Davin had told him he was staying in Brooklyn for the duration of their leave. Why would he lie? Unless…

Axel shot out of his chair, almost turning it over in his haste. He ditched what little was left of his coffee and jogged down the street. He didn’t last long like that because of the hot weather, so he settled into a brisk walk, almost catching up to Davin when he stopped to cross the road.

“Davin,” he yelled.

He wasn’t sure he’d heard until he saw Davin glance over his shoulder quickly before picking up his pace. Now that was just strange in itself, and he might’ve let it go if he didn’t believe Davin had to be in some kind of trouble. Frankly, he was getting pissed at his best friend. Davin and he had always shared everything. Until Grace.

The chick was cool. Actually, she was thé coolest girl he’d ever met. He liked her, but he didn’t like that Davin had ever felt the need to keep her or their relationship a secret from him. The asshole deserved an ass-whooping for that, and Axel was going to give it to him right then and there. As soon as he caught up with the idiot, that was.

Maybe he was working for the CIA. The thought made him fight off a shudder. He doubted Davin was working for Dom because their boss let them have the week off. According to Franklin, the assistant director in charge had been furious when he and Dom had returned to the office, but one glare from Dom and the guy had bobbed his head like a damned bobblehead before running back into his office to hide. It helped that only the director himself knew what their little task force actually did and it only sparked a crazy amount of rumors, which meant that most of their colleagues were slightly afraid of them. Axel knew Dom had given them time off because he and Tank had missed their families, but he hated not having anything to do, which was also why he’d gone with Davin.

He followed Davin across Broadway, past City Hall Park, and then over Park Row. Davin turned down Spruce Street and ducked through the opening in the construction walls set up around the lower part of a building. Axel stopped when he reached the opening, looking inside and seeing the maze of walls and no construction workers. With someone who wasn’t his brother, he would’ve believed it to be a trap. He stepped inside, slowly making his way into the building. He kept glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one was following them.

When hands grabbed him, pulling him down a small passage, he repressed his well-trained reflexes and remained unresponsive as he was shoved into a brick wall. With one hand fisted in Axel’s shirt, Davin raised a gun, pointing it in Axel’s face. He knew he’d reached his limit with Davin right then. He snarled and grabbed the gun, pulling it out of Davin’s hands and letting it hang down by his side.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Axel growled.

Davin cursed under his breath before releasing Axel’s shirt and taking two steps backward.

“Goddamned it, Justice. What the hell is going on?”

Davin’s eyes widened comically, but he remained quiet.

“Please tell me you’re not working for Neil,” Axel said with an exasperated puff of air.

“Who?” Davin asked.

Axel fought off the need to roll his eyes. “I don’t know what the hell you’re doing, Davin, but this.” He raised the gun a bit to show what he meant. “Isn’t cool.”

“I’m not Davin.”

This time Axel did roll his eyes. “Come on. Are you seriously gonna do this?”

“No, I—” Davin cocked his head to the side, his eyes running over Axel’s face. “I’m not my brother.”

Axel opened his mouth to tell him what an ass he was when his eyes caught on a tiny scar above the man’s lip. He swallowed back his words and took a moment to study the man in front of him. The differences were subtle, but they were there. His muscles were more defined, his posture a bit different, and his voice was darker—colder—than Davin’s. Besides, he was pretty sure Davin’s hair couldn’t have grown a whole inch in one day. Everything about this guy was darker someway, and it made him that much sexier.

Axel cleared his throat and tried to push away that thought. He so didn’t need that right then.

“Davin has a twin brother,” Axel said, barely able to believe what he was saying.

“Yes,” Davin-who-wasn’t-really-Davin said.

“So he didn’t just keep his girlfriend a secret from me. He kept his identical twin a secret, too.”

Davin’s brother frowned at Axel. “Who are you exactly, and can I have my gun back?”

“No,” Axel growled.

The man didn’t as much as flinch. He sighed and gave Axel a bored look. There was something about him that set off Axel’s alarms, but that might just be because one look at the man woke up his dick.

“Axel Bates,” he said and held out his hand. “Davin’s supposed best friend.”

“I’m Maze.”

“Maze?”

“It’s a nickname,” Maze said.

“I don’t get your real name?”

Maze’s dark chuckle went right to Axel’s groin.

“That’s up to Davin.”

Axel narrowed his eyes at Maze. “Well then, Maze. What did you do to make DJ keep you a secret? Or is it the other way around?”

Maze crossed his arms over his chest and smiled at Axel. A sexy, secretive smile. He might look like his best friend, but the man in front of him was very much his own. Axel’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out, somewhat hoping it was work so he could get back to doing something. Other than hunting down his friend’s twin.

“Speaking of the asshole,” Axel said before picking up his phone.

Davin’s cheerful voice sounded in his ear. “Hey, buddy. I was thinking maybe we could—”

“You have a brother.”

“Fuck,” Davin groaned. “I’m sorry.”

“You’d better be. He’s a handsome fella, your brother.”

“Jesus. Look. I know you’re mad, but please do as I say.”

Axel knew what Davin was about to say. He wasn’t an idiot. Everything about the man in front of him screamed “bad.” Now, he was willing to bet he’d like Maze’s kind of bad in bed, but that wasn’t the kind Davin was warning him about.

“I need you to get the hell away from him. Now,” Davin said.

“You owe me one hell of an explanation.”

“I know. I promise I’ll explain everything, but right now, I just need you to get away from my brother.”

“Fine,” Axel said and hung up before Davin could say another word.

“Let me guess,” Maze said. “He told you to run as fast as you could.”

“Well, he sure as shit didn’t tell me you bite, ’cause he knows I’d just stick around,” Axel drawled.

Maze’s lips twitched like he was holding back a smile. He couldn’t hide what was in his eyes, though. Maze liked what he saw, and Axel wasn’t sure what to do with that bit of information.

Maze held out his hand, and Axel narrowed his eyes at him but put the gun back in Maze’s hand. He didn’t let go when Maze’s fingers wrapped around the gun. Maze’s eyes shot up to meet his.

“I have a distinct feeling you don’t have a permit for this, so be careful and don’t get dead, okay?”

Surprise showed on Maze’s face for a mere second before he masked it. “I’ll make sure to do that.”

Axel let the gun slip from his grasp. Maze looked at his gun, then up at Axel before tucking the gun into the back of his pants. With a cocky grin on his face, Maze backed up a few steps. Axel followed every movement closely until Maze disappeared from his line of sight.

He had a feeling he’d be seeing more to Maze. Or perhaps it was more wishful thinking.