Retribution, Seven Style
"She's not going to..." JD started. The suit jacket came off. The red and white short sleeved blouse clung to her, concealing nothing.
"Yup, she is," Buck sat forward eagerly. The blouse joined the suit jacket. His grin broadened as more bare skin came into view. Buck told himself he definitely would not kick her out of bed. Hell, after seeing this, how could he get her there?
"Ah. . . guys?" JD stammered. Eyebrows met his hairline and his head tipped forward.
The multiple views gave them one hundred percent coverage - front, back, and sides.
Josiah studied the female form with an artist's eye, the eye of one having seen beauty in every incarnation, finding exquisiteness in every line and curve, both standing still and moving.
Ezra admitted to himself that she needed more weight to make her perfect but she neared perfection with that body freed from the harsh suits.
Nathan's medically trained eyes judged muscle tone excellent with a dancer's grace.
Vin knew he was in trouble because he could not tear his eyes away. He wondered if the skin was actually as smooth and soft as it looked.
Everyone remained frozen as the unexpected floorshow continued. As gentlemen, they wanted to do the right thing and turn away, but male testosterone ruled their heads now. Harper, unaware of the prying eyes wiggled out of her skirt, leaving her in a pair of gartered stockings, white lace bra, and white lacy thong underwear. Straightening, Harper undid her front clasp bra and the screen blacked out as the material began spreading apart.
Startled out of their unconscious peeping, six pairs of surprised, stunned eyes turned to the back of the room.
Standing with the power cord to the projection equipment dangling in his hands, the Larabee's stern look left no room for argument, clearly telling them 'We're not going there' without words.
Everyone looked at anything but each other for the next few silent minutes until Chris felt satisfied she had enough time to dry and dress. The folders probably received more scrutiny than they would the entire day. As Chris plugged the projector back in, Josiah's sense of humor refused denial as he chuckled low to himself at their behavior. His chuckles caused Buck to start, then JD, then Nathan, until finally the entire team shared a laugh at their own expense because of their behavior.
Unaware of her audience, Harper stripped completely naked and vigorously dried herself off, wrapping her hair in a towel. She started from scratch and from head to toe changed into a dry and conservative outfit, the one she saved for unexpected late night appointments or meetings. This outfit consisted of a white silk sleeveless shell with a black skirt stopping just above the knee and a black dressy jacket coming halfway down the length of the skirt. She used her blow dryer on her towel-dried auburn hair then pulled it into a twist, securing it with black lacquered sticks. The shoes changed from the red pumps to black heels.
Checking the clock on the wall, she felt relieved she still had thirty minutes before her class started.
The video resumed as she entered the training room in a dry outfit, looking nothing like the drowned, bedraggled rat she resembled a short time earlier.
"That woman can put herself together quick," Buck commented, silently regretting the interrupted floorshow and hoping for a private audience sometime.
JD added, "Yeah, you wouldn't even know she was soaked."
"As Mother would say, appearances are everything."
"Si vis pacem, para bellum," Josiah intoned. At JD's stupefied look, he translated, "If you wish peace, prepare for war."
"That a prophesy, Preacher?" Buck queried, thinking the older man's comments were often as hard to decipher as the slick southerners ten- dollar words.
"Could be...Could be," Josiah frowned in thought as he studied the composed young woman on the video. He had the niggling suspicion that their little battle with the mysterious training instructor was going to turn into an all out war. He seriously doubted even Ezra would want to give odds on the victor. On the other hand, maybe Ezra would and hedge his bets like normal to make a profit. Josiah started jotting notes on the pad resting on his crossed leg.
"You working up a profile?" asked Nathan from beside him.
"Always pays to be prepared."
"For what, Josiah?" Chris turned his gaze on the older man. "You already did one when the planning started."
"Predicting and observing are two separate issues. What I see changes what I know."
"And the more you know," said JD, "the more you can accurately predict."
Josiah tapped his index finger on his nose causing JD to puff up with personal pleasure at reasoning things out. They returned to their voyeurism as she opened her e-mail.
Walking out, she found the training room still set as she left it the night before and heaved a sigh of relief. Fifteen more minutes and she would have to start policing the students. She hoped they might remember their lessons from her previous classes. Until then, time to work. Too much to do and excessively little time to do it all in.
Returning to her office, she settled in her chair and booted up her left computer. Crossing her fingers, Harper hoped today went better than yesterday; the self-defense class required more physical exertion than she thought, especially keeping the amorous, flirtatious, vexing Buck Wilmington in line. She still wondered why she had not written him up for sexual harassment as she had the braying asses in Baltimore. Maybe because he was more charming and genuine; she'd think about that later.
He was excellent as a punch dummy, making the students work for the upper hand and not letting them coast, a trait she admired. He also took the time and initiative to demonstrate some moves and counters that saved her the exercise, for which she was grateful. Harper reflected that the man was a natural born teacher, getting his point across succinctly without frustrating the students.
She chuckled as she remembered him slamming onto the mat repeatedly, thrice by her and many more times by the students. The temporary duty transfer agent from California - Roxanne - caught the mustached man's attention and he switched his considerable charm to her. Roxanne's platinum blond, wavy, shoulder length hair, deep tan, green eyes and killer body practically drove Agent Wilmington into drooling. Harper found perverse joy in watching Roxanne taking advantage of his discounting her as a threat by repetitively and powerfully smearing him into the mat. Of course, it did not hurt that the Californian spent her free time at the gym for bodybuilding contests, giving her a distinct advantage over Buck. He never expected the pure muscle.
Entering her passwords, Harper opened her e-mail, finding a reply from Nathan Jackson. He agreed on meeting her later that morning regarding his training and she stood, marking it on her office door calendar. She found it easier in posting her schedule outside on her door. This way, anyone wanting to see her (what a joke - she was as popular as Typhoid Mary) just needed to check the schedule. While she wrote, her computer's loud blaring startled her. Consequently, her weapon cleared leather and pointed directly at it. It sang on unconcerned about the barrel or lethal projectiles contained within the cool, agency-issued metal.I'm a bitch, I'm a tease, I'm a goddess on my knees...
Closing her eyes, Harper reholstered her gun and approached the offending machine. Her breathing evened out as she willed calmness and looked at the screen. Meredith Brooks' video for the song played and she quickly ended the show. Harper fed the computer her especially designed anti-virus program and found five more little surprises waiting for her. The program pended them and she started her backtrack on the hack. Her fast sweep found nothing, an unusual occurrence from this program.
"Oh, you're good."
== 7 ==
JD preened, blowing on his knuckles and rubbing them on his shirt, a cocky tilt to his head and smug grin on his countenance. Feeling the koosh ball bounce off the back of his head, he turned to face the serious face of his roommate.
"Don't get cocky, kid."
"She admitted it so I will enjoy it. You have your moments; this is one of mine." His chest puffed out with pride at her validation; he worked very hard to get around her safeguards and only made it in a short distance.
== 7 ==
Whoever hacked into her system knew their way around, she'd give him or her that. However, she knew where to look and found the owner of the program within moments. "But I'm better." A smile hovered on her lips as she realized they started their retribution. Time to see how creative they could be. Choosing to be surprised, she restored the five programs and sent a 'gift' of her own. Let's see the computer whiz deal with that.
Team 7 howled when the song blared through the speakers. Buck congratulated JD on his choice, puffing the young man up further while the rest analyzed her reaction.
"She's got quick reflexes," Vin commented, his boots propped the table, a folder open in his lap. He appreciated her fast draw.
"Glad she didn't shoot the computer; there's way too much paperwork in that," JD shot a knowing glance at his roommate. "You remember, don't you, Buck?" Receiving a smack on the back of the head, he whacked back. The Larabee glare put a stop to the antics. For some reason, the Larabee glare started receiving a workout today and it probably would not stop until he collapsed exhausted in his bed from eye fatigue or he ventilated his team.
"Hate to see her explain the bullet holes," their medic nodded, reviewing his current continuing education training or lack thereof. With a sigh, he realized he required even more field time for maintaining his current level of certification. Somehow, he needed to work that in his impossibly juggled schedule within the next couple of months. He hoped Rain would understand the loss of more of his free time.
"Took it pretty well," Josiah commented. He sat with his body relaxed, one leg resting on the other, and catalogued her reactions on paper.
"Ya think?" asked Vin.
"Yup." Josiah found her an interesting puzzle and wanted to learn more. Nothing fascinated him more than people did and she would not be pigeonholed at all, constantly changing and redefining what he knew about her.
"Buck, focus in on her computer screen. I want to see what she's doing." His preening distracted him from her actions and she was doing something on her computer from the ever-changing screens, going by so fast that he barely could focus on them. The mustached man complied for his housemate, enlarging the view from behind her LCD screen. As the collection of ATF menus flew by, the resident computer expert realized he knew her destination. Their profiles. "Oh man, I didn't know she had access to that." He really, really did not want her to know about his past and all the information contained within. As Vin said earlier, 'Everyone's past is their own'.
Ezra's picture appeared on the screen. The southerner straightened in his seat. "She's not supposed to have access to my personnel file," the agent was clearly horrified. He sputtered, "It's sealed."
Chris appeared behind Ezra, clamping a hand on the tense man's shoulder to calm him. "Not from her."
"Pray tell why that she-devil can access my information." Green eyes flicked between the leader and the Instructor. They watched as she scribbled notes in a foreign language on a pad beside her terminal.
The blond quietly explained, "Officially, she's our Training Instructor of record. It is our - hers and my - responsibility to make sure the team keeps up all certifications. Don't worry; her clearance is higher than yours."
"How?" scoffed JD. "She's only an Instructor. What could she know about field work?" He caught Josiah's patient look that reminded him when he strayed out of the river into the open sea and was about to sink. "What?"
"More than you, kid." Chris flashed back to his meeting with AD Travis.
Last Thursday, Day after CPR Recertification
Chris entered the office and shook hands with AD Travis. "Thank you for seeing me."
"Anytime, Chris. You're here about Harper?"
The blond hid his surprise. "You were expecting me?"
"Instructor Harper provokes strong reactions. I normally see team leaders after their first encounter with her." AD Travis motioned him to sit, which Chris complied.
As was his custom, he got right to the point. "She's a menace," Team 7's leader told the AD. Menace was not the word - rude, arrogant, pushy...he could go on.
"And extremely good at her job. That's why I requested her transfer." He nailed Larabee in place with his eyes.
Chris drew back at this revelation. AD Travis purposefully picked her to torment them? He swallowed reflexively and muscles stiffened.
The older man gave him a stern, disapproving look. "All the teams here play hard and fast with the rules, Chris, and your team couldn't find the rulebook if it was in big print on the wallpaper."
"Now that's..." He tried defending his team, not liking the quicksand he now found himself mired in.
"Absolutely correct," Travis smoothly interrupted. "Dunne's a hacker; Standish weasels whenever he can; Wilmington personifies sexual harassment; Sanchez's temper should have gotten him booted or retired by now; Tanner's unorthodox methods as a bounty hunter carried over here, and Jackson cares too much. Throw in your hard- nosed reputation and I'm sitting on a powder keg with a match."
The description may have been accurate but the leader did not like hearing it. Nor would he put up with it from anyone, including his boss. His temper reared its not-far-from-the-surface head when it came to those he cared about. "Wait a minute..."
The Assistant Director motioned Chris to relax with his hands. "No offense intended; I like and respect all of you professionally and personally. However, I am charged with keeping you mavericks in line. Just your team alone is a full time job and you are not my only responsibility. Frankly, I am tired. Harper's got the experience and temperament to ride herd so I let her."
Knowing he had it right, Chris countered, "What experience? Truth is if you can't cut it in the field, you train, unless it's a specialty unit."
Travis acknowledged that with a nod. "Most cases that's true," he admitted.
"She's an exception?" Green eyes narrowed as hands squeezed the chair rest. His dislike grew because she never was what anyone expected and he hated the unexpected. The unexpected could get people killed.
"Yes." Travis leaned back and idly turned his Cross pen in his hand, surreptitiously watching the man across from him.
"I don't have to," Travis calmly replied. "The ATF and I are satisfied with her qualifications."
Chris gave him a sardonic look. "Somehow I'm not reassured." The ATF Instructors of the past often lacked certain qualifications after their 'involuntary transfer' to Training and did not care about their quality of work. They pulled a paycheck and that paid the bills. End of story for most of them, except for the specialty units; those people were the best to teach the best.
The AD eyed the angry blonde speculatively, deciding this man deserved more of an explanation. It was by his authority that Larabee was allowed to form the unorthodox team he now headed. It was a decision he never regretted, having a crack team that made real, tangible progress in their ongoing fight against the criminal element in this district. Regardless of how they behaved, Larabee was a hard taskmaster who demanded results and commanded absolute loyalty. Travis knew in order to keep his faith with the man he needed to reassure him and prove Harper's competence.
Taking a deep breath, Travis looked around his office, finding comfort in the deep toned woods, the rich burgundy accents, and deep navy blue tones. Evie's picture graced the left corner beside a studio portrait of his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson taken right before his son's unfortunate death. Perhaps the older man felt a palpable kinship with the caged tiger across from him; he understood the loss of a child, and more tragically, the loss of a spouse. The tiger studied him with wary eyes.
The older man sighed, feeling each one of his years. "What I am about to tell you is extremely classified. Do you understand?" Each syllable carried the weight and importance of the information.
Chris nodded, leaning forward slightly, his expression solemn.
Choosing his words with care, the AD began, "Harper is a tremendously decorated agent with the highest security clearance available. The highest, Chris. She has logged more field time than Standish and Tanner combined; most of that time she spent in deep cover." He waited for Chris to acknowledge before continuing.
"I'm ashamed to say this but the ATF took advantage of her. Fresh out of the Academy and they threw her against Linmont."
Larabee remembered that case - one of the largest recoveries of stolen weapons but also one of the costliest in humanity. Everyone sent in against Linmont's organization came out insane or dead because Linmont made torturing agents a favorite pastime. It was originally believed that he was just really good at ferreting out infiltrators, but then it was mysteriously discovered Linmont had been paying a senior ATF agent to rat out his fellow agents. "She was tortured?"
A grim, black shadow crossed the older man's face. His mouth tightened. "No. She pulled it off - she suspected the leak from the beginning and refused to let anyone put her name on any paperwork relating to the case. In fact, made the ATF erase almost every trace of her employment except to a select few. Broke more regs and stepped on a lot of toes doing it, but she brought in the bust. Harper spent almost a year under on that one. Seeing her talent, the powers that be threw her against every hard case. She kept succeeding, earning her longer and longer assignments undercover and the worst of the worst." Travis ceased his narrative, having said all he planned without violating the classified designations.
Chris thought he read what his boss could not say. "She finally cracked?"
"No." Emphatically, the Assistant Director shook his head. "Someone arranged her capture. She never cracked; she survived. In some ways, that was worse than cracking. When she finally got back, she adamantly refused to work undercover except in case of special circumstances and entered the Training Division. The seals are still in place at her request and at the backing of extremely higher ups in the ATF. Since then, her attitude never won her any friends in Baltimore."
"I can see why," muttered Chris.
"But she makes you think. I'll guarantee you confront her and she'll force your brain into working. Trust me; I speak from experience."
Larabee nodded, remembering their 'talk' in her office during recertification.
"I find it annoying to be on the receiving end but it gives me perspective."
Chris scowled, "I'll agree with annoying."
"She gets results, Chris, all within regulations. Since she got here, our number of internal and external complaints dropped twenty percent, not counting how many teams she has gotten to bond together."
This was a sticking point; his team was already tight and did not want the aggravation. "My team doesn't need bonding."
"No, but they do need in-service classes." With a smile, the Assistant Director stood and started escorting Chris out. "I don't want to hear your boys and Harper aren't getting along. Am I understood?" Another brisk nod. "Always a pleasure, Chris. Stop by anytime." With a pat on the back, Travis showed the blond out, leaving Chris feeling manipulated by a master. Gathering his composure, he returned to the sanctuary of his office.
Team 7 Conference Room
"How intriguing," Ezra muttered at the security clearance revelation.
Josiah added the tidbits to his checklist.
"Hell, Chris, anyone can get more field time than JD. The kid sits on his butt in the van most of the time."
"Hey!" JD prepared his retaliatory strike.
"Buck." One word and a message passed between them. The ladies man read the mood - 'I'm serious, I know more than you, and I can't tell you'. The sharpshooter also understood the look.
JD stayed quiet understanding something happened between the three friends.
Nathan broke the silence by changing the subject, "I have a meeting with her later this morning." Twelve eyes blinked disbelieving at him. Consorting with the enemy? Nathan? No, not their Nathan; they refused to jump to conclusions and waited for his explanation. "We're discussing my training and I'd appreciate it if y'all didn't watch." The group nodded their relieved understanding and would respect his request for privacy.
On the screens, Harper efficiently worked while they talked. Ezra's picture disappeared for JD's. After JD's, she went one by one through the entire team, rapidly taking notes. She checked the clock and left her office, locking down both her computers and the office. Her hands carried the notes and materials needed for the class she taught today.
Vin slipped from the room for his next prank; bag in hand, a headset in his pocket for when he reached the Training Complex. Buck planned to keep Vin apprised of her activities so he could avoid discovery. They shuddered thinking about what she might do if she caught one of them in her office.
Harper entered the training room fifteen minutes early for her nine o'clock class. The strong odor of coffee filtered out from the break room and she poured herself a cup. Fortunately, this was only a two- hour class on Felony Stops, including the two videos of actual stops. She did not expect too many problems; two hours made for easy classes and she had already taught most of these agents. Harper waited by the open doors to the smaller room, coffee in hand. As of yet, she had not tasted it.
They arrived in bunches, careful in eating their snacks in the other room. One of the first agents poured a cup of coffee and took a tentative sip.
"Damn, Harper! What the hell are you trying to do? Give us paint masquerading as coffee?"
"Agent Turner, you already knew I make strong coffee. See? I am having some as well. If you're not man enough to drink it, don't." She took a sip and suppressed the intense reaction the strong brew invoked. Someone changed her coffee beans. From the taste, Standish. She recognized the upscale, potent blend, requiring half the normal amount that she inadvertently doubled in her anger and haste this morning. This could clean battery terminals.
"Gimme the sugar." Turner dumped a large amount of white crystals in the coffee, stirred, and sipped. He immediately spat the offensive concoction into the trashcan. "Harper, I know you don't like men, but damn! Do you have to put salt in place of sugar?"
Her eyes narrowed slightly as she sampled the sugar. Salt. How pleasant. Rummaging in the cabinets, she found a generic sugar cylinder and placed it next to Turner. "Making sure you're on your toes, Turner." With that statement, she left for the front doors of the Training Center to greet the other students, her now empty mug washed and air-drying. She would take it to her office later.
"I'm on my toes, Harper. I danced on them when I passed you changing your tire!" He neglected mentioning the perverse joy of hitting a puddle and spraying her with rainwater.
"Proof positive of evolution's stagnation and the slow, agonizing death of chivalry," she called back.
"Up yours, Harper," he muttered.
"What was that?" Her voice sounded much closer than he thought.
Turner raised his voice. "Point's yours, Harper."
"That's just wrong," grumbled Buck. "You don't leave anyone, especially a lady, in distress on the side of the road." He glared at Turner's image.
"Ya don't spray her either," added the sharpshooter.
JD agreed, "It isn't right."
"He's either brave or stupid, saying what he did," said Josiah. "I'm leaning toward stupid."
"Mr. Turner has not proven himself a scholar or a gentleman."
Nathan mused, "Wonder how she'll deal with it."
"Watch and learn," their leader intoned, deciding he was enjoying this.
Small break room, Outside Training Center
"Turner, I'll make a deal with you. You keep your mouth shut the rest of class and I will not nail you with conduct unbecoming. I did hear you; I wondered if you had the fortitude to repeat it to my face like a real man." Hazel eyes nailed him in place. Once he sullenly looked away, she returned to her customary place as the latecomers arrived.
The ten agents, all male, settled in their seats without protest and signed the attendance sheet. They shared the opinion of the less time spent with her, the better off they would be. She started teaching the class, not knowing Team 7 paid attention as well.
Vin quietly made his way into the Training Complex and put on the headset. Bucks voice rumbled in his ear, "Junior, you're good all the way to her office. She's in front of the class and won't see you."
"Got it." The sharpshooter picked the lock without a sound and slipped inside her office, closing the door quietly behind him. He opened the bag and removed the sparkling confetti. With joyful abandon and a huge grin on his face, he flung the confetti all over her office, making sure a little bit went into each shot glass. The silly string coated the locked door for the shared supply room between her office and another Instructor's. Streamers hung on every conceivable surface in all shades of the rainbow. Next, blue eyes filled with merriment, he buried the whoopee cushion under her seat and toilet papered her chair.
"You better move," Buck hissed in his ear. "She's getting ready to start the videos."
"I'm outta here." Vin grabbed his much lighter bag and slipped out the way he came, making sure the door locked behind him. He arrived back in the Conference Room, receiving high fives and handshakes, just in time to watch her press play. He turned his interest to the video image as he heard her voice on the speakers while he settled comfortably in his chair.
"Okay, I need to make a couple of calls so I'm going to trust you to watch the first video. I'll be back in five minutes." Harper disappeared from the room after starting the VCR. The people she needed to talk to were only available at certain times.
Instead of law enforcement officers making felony stops, the screen filled with scantily clad, well-endowed female officers stripping for the beyond handsome 'suspects' handcuffed in the interrogation room. The video degenerated from there into something found in the adult section of a video store. The students watched with rapt attention, not wanting to stop the video and enjoying the unexpected entertainment. Male testosterone once again took the lead leaving rational thought stalled in the dust on the starting line.
"One of my favorites," Buck crowed from his seat, as JD blushed beside him. Chris slumped in his chair rubbing his temple, still not believing he was going along with this. Beside him, Vin chuckled as he gauged his friends' discomfort.
"That's not possible!" exclaimed JD as one of the female 'officers' bent over in an acrobatic, unique position.
"Yes, it is," Josiah rumbled, lost in a memory, a large smile on his face.
JD and Nathan stared in amazement at the older man, their jaws open and eyes wide.
"I concur," Ezra added, his mind back to his rebellious college years and the young co-eds willing to try just about anything back then. Strangely, no one gave him the open-mouthed scrutiny they gave their spiritual leader.
Vin felt the heat rising in his own cheeks as another 'officer' 'interrogated' the 'suspect' on her knees. Chris elbowed Vin and pointed at their youngest agent, now seeing two otherwise occupied females. The kid's eyes could not be any wider, his head tipped any further forward, and Buck chuckled as he smacked him under the chin to close his mouth. JD barely noticed with his considerable attention focused on the screen.
Nathan watched the students and realized they were getting uncomfortable from the way they shifted in their seats when they thought the others were not looking. He grudgingly admired the lowbrow prank.
Harper opened her office door and burst out laughing. Rainbow colored streamers hung from the ceiling onto every surface; toilet paper buried her chair; silly string in pink and blue coated the supply room door; and confetti hats, stars, and dots winked at her from all over. "Nice," she said aloud. "Very nice, gentlemen." She unlocked her desk and removed a camera, stepping out into the hallway to take pictures.
Putting the camera away, she found her telephone in the disarray and called Agent Jefferson, agreeing to his meeting with AD Travis later that week. She stayed professional although he hung up on her. Her other calls ended quickly, mostly confirming reservations for seminars and teaching trips. Once finished, Harper returned to what she considered 'her' classroom to find brazen sex acts performed on the projection screens.
She instantly knew the name of the responsible party and bit her lip hard as not to laugh. Her Harpy image must remain intact therefore, with significant difficulty she killed the threatening smile and purposefully strode to the front of the room. Harper knew that from their first meeting Team 7 would make her life interesting. They were not disappointing her.
Buck nearly busted his gut laughing, setting his chest to aching. The expression on her face and her struggle for control was priceless. Nathan smiled and shook his head while Josiah studied her reaction, a large grin on his mug. Vin still felt residual heat in his ears, feeling rather than seeing Chris' smirk beside him. JD was wide-eyed, still enthralled by the display. Ezra split his attention between her and his teammates, enjoying the embarrassment of the flushed Texan.
Temptation won out. "Tell me, Mr. Tanner, are you engrossed and amazed with the display? Might I add you wear red well; I do own a jacket that would match your complexion precisely."
"Shut up, Ez." Long hair swung in front of the reddened features.
"Buck, we're going to have to educate him," Chris solemnly called to his oldest friend for help, also enjoying seeing the shy side of Tanner. He looked past the amazed youngest in the process.
The face wrinkled in study and the head tilted in consideration. "You think he's old enough to handle it?"
"I'm over twenty-one," JD inserted, offended, misinterpreting the looks passing by him.
"Not you, kid," Chris replied with a smirk. "I know Buck's handling your education." The two old friends shared an amused glance because Chris knew firsthand what Buck considered 'educational'. They were lucky they were never arrested for their drunken shenanigans.
"Quit talkin' about me like I ain't here."
They kept ignoring Tanner. "The usual?" Translation: Fantasy Voyages Gentlemen's Club.
Chris allowed himself a wolfish grin. "The usual."
"When?" Buck's eyes twinkled in anticipation, his grin animalistic.
"Y'all shut up. Don't need no 'education' and ain't none of yer business." First, he did not want this; second, Vin hated being talked about as if he was not present.
"Count me in, brothers. I'm always interested in learning." This day kept improving by the hour.
"Me too!" exclaimed JD. His last 'educational' field trip, as Buck called them, cost him one hundred dollars but he appreciated women a whole hell of a lot more since then.
"Someone's got to keep y'all in line," Nathan groused with folded arms and a smile. Privately he thought someone needed to be sane if they were pulled over or in trouble, two very likely possibilities with their checkered record of accomplishments.
"I plan on enjoying the spectacle," said Ezra. The thought of watching the shy sharpshooter in one of those places Wilmington frequented and Larabee visited was worth the potential damage to his reputation.
"Y'all deaf? Ya ain't listenin' ta me. I ain't goin'."
"Mr. Tanner, you can and you will or else."
Stubborn eyes nailed the southerner. "Or else what? Reckon ya can't do nuthin' ta me, Ez."
Ezra leaned over and whispered in Vin's ear.
"Ya wouldn't!" Blue eyes widened and stared at smug green eyes. He never thought Ez would do something like that...he needed to rethink what he knew about the slippery southerner.
A gold tooth appeared. "Try me."
"Aw, hell." The Texan slumped in his chair, the fight taken from him.
Chris wondered what Ezra held over Vin and made a mental note to find out.
"Tomorrow night," the ladies' man was eager.
"I'll drive," offered Josiah, his Suburban guaranteeing everyone a seat and a Designated Driver.
"Right nice of you, Josiah. Thank you."
"Anytime," the big man returned, earning nods of gratitude from everyone but Vin, still plotting a way out of this.
"Yeah, thanks, Josiah," came the sharpshooter's sarcastic reply. "I'm still telling y'all I don't need this."
"We need the laughs, Junior." Vin saluted them with a finger and a scowl. He knew plenty about women but considered himself choosy. Nothin' wrong with choosy, he told himself.
Josiah decided to 'save' their shy teammate. "Speaking of laughs, brothers, our victim's talking."
Harper stopped the video with a brutal stab on the machine and faced the entire class like a mythical Valkyrie or Harpy. "Please explain why you did not call my attention to this." Her icy tone should have frozen them solid.
In the Conference Room, Josiah leaned toward Valkyrie.
The testosterone still lorded over good sense. "You put it in, you can take it out." The male agent made it through the statement then burst into laughter. The other agents followed suit.
"Damn, Harper, if I knew you planned this for entertainment, I would have taken your class earlier," Turner said. The other students nodded their agreement.
"One question: Can you get into half of those positions?" a third brave soul asked. Table slapping, side holding, and a general lack of male control pervaded the room.
Icy chips burned away under the intense heat of the flames spewing from the hazel eyes. They changed color, blackening in anger at the agent who made the last statement. "All comments of this nature will cease at this time. Am I understood?" That voice killed the testosterone under the stink of male fear and self-preservation. The figurative whip came out cracking.
The students realized the feared Harpy arrived in full battle mode. They sobered immediately and fell silent. The floors, walls, and shoes seemed safer than the enraged beast glaring down at them. "I apologize for the content of that video. Obviously, that was not the video intended for this class. If you found it offensive, please tell me now." The ten agents shook their heads in fear. "Good. I'll attempt to locate the other video while you watch this one." She inserted another tape into the machine and naked breasts appeared. "Or not. Review your handouts." She ripped the second tape from the player. Not one single student chose to argue with the Harpy and all of them flipped through the paperwork without a word spoken. Even the rustling paper sounded incredibly loud.
Ezra pointed at the screens with his index finger. "That, gentlemen, is not one she-devil I would choose to cross at this juncture."
JD shivered. "She's scary like that."
"Almost as bad as Larabee here," Vin drawled. "On a good day."
A sidelong punch and Vin shoved back, nearly knocking the leader from his chair.
"Gotta admit she's damn beautiful when she's mad," Buck said with a smile of appreciation.
Josiah noted her reaction and added another tidbit of information to the mosaic forming in his head.
Nathan put forward a thought that chilled their blood. "If she's this mean to them for their comments, what will she do to us? The pranks have barely started."
Rapidly vacating the Training Center with both adult videos in hand, she heard the muffled chuckles, snickers, and guffaws behind her. Searching the remains of her office, Harper located the real videos taped underneath her bottom desk drawer. "Agent Wilmington, you will pay dearly for these videos. I can be very creative in my responses." Apparently, she talked to herself much to their amusement. Carrying the correct videos out, she started them and finished the class in record time. Her acid tongue kept the men in line and they left grateful to have their skins intact in the wake of her fury, not realizing how easily they could have turned the situation against her.
Buck believed her when she said she could be creative. Look how easily she arranged his 'volunteering' as a punch dummy. JD chose then to smack him yet again in the chest resulting in a monster- sized wedgie for the computer whiz. This smacking got old and the young man needed to stop before Buck turned him upside down in the toilet for the principle of it. He said nothing to JD about the toilet; if the kid did it one more time, well, he'd be getting a free hair rinse.
Said computer whiz disappeared into the break room, adjusted his pants and searched the kitchen for the salt. Once he found it, he dumped a generous handful into his hand and walked behind his best friend, tossing the white grains into his bouffant. Some bounced off the sprayed style while the rest insinuated themselves against his scalp. Buck howled and shook his head like a dog, sending the crystals all over Chris. JD scooted out of the long armed man's reach, precisely mimicking Buck's movements.
After a low-intensity annoyed glare at the Dynamic Duo and brushing salt from his black clothes onto Tanner, the leader reflected on the way the trainer handled the class after the videos and his respect for her raised. She knew exactly how to turn a situation to her advantage through both defense (asking if anyone was offended) and offense (cutting all comments down immediately). She also possessed a sense of humor for taking her new office decorations in stride.
Josiah found himself amused and impressed by the way she kept her composure. His profile filled out a bit more but he felt like he only had the border of a mystery whodunit puzzle, not having anything on the interior to help form the picture. So far, he learned more about her through simple observation than he would if he spoke with her directly. As of yet, his incense had not come into play but he wondered what the team planned.
A narrow-eyed glower at Larabee, two swipes with his hands to remove the salt and Vin waited for his next opportunity - her lunch break. Once she finished cleaning her office, as she did now, he would redecorate it for her again unless another opportunity presented itself in the meantime. She would not expect it redecorated so soon. He nearly fell to the floor when she finally uncovered her chair and dropped into the seat, setting off the whoopee cushion. Again, her gun cleared the holster before conscious thought caught up and the chair nearly earned a .40 caliber hole.
"Men!" the miniature version sniped on the screen. "I won't be responsible if I shoot the next thing to make a noise."
Ezra smiled broadly. It was a pleasure to watch her react to each new prank, and the best were yet to come. He rubbed his hands in anticipation. The southerner wondered how well versed the Harpy was in literature.
Nathan checked the clock and realized he needed to leave for his meeting. "Y'all, I'd appreciate it if you don't watch my discussion with her." His chocolate eyes swept over all of them and Buck stopped the recorders and the screen in her office only. "Thank you." He headed for his meeting knowing he could trust his teammates to keep their word. Nathan knocked on her door as the last of the streamers disappeared into a plastic bag.
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