The Stakeout Part 3

by Linda. T

ATF Alternate Universe


She could not get him out of her mind.

How is that possible?

There were men before. So many men, some more beautiful, more pliant and certainly less trouble than this one and yet she could not shed him from her mind. He lingered there, like cancer taking root, eating away at her. She paced the floor of the apartment she should have vacated weeks ago, staring at the city below her aware that was no reason to remain. Still, she could not walk onto the plane that would leave him behind forever. Instead she found herself trapped in New Mexico of all places, trapped like fly in amber and slave to an emotion she swore she would never fall victim.

She managed to get her hands on the Monet, having able to fend off that invisible pull that kept her from leaving long enough to steal the painting and satisfy some rather insistent clients of hers from taking further action for her previous failures. Her reputation as the best was still hers to keep but for some reason, being the best was no longer enough. Following the completion of the job, she found herself surrounded by the walls of her plush penthouse apartment, determined that her temporary lease would remain that, temporary and yet she found herself scouring the real estate pages, searching for something she refused to acknowledge she wanted.

She had more than enough money from ten years in the game to last her dozen life times. Her services had never come cheap and the advantage of being the best was to be able to name one’s price. She had done that and more repeatedly and so that numbered Swiss bank account ensured that she would never have to worry about money again. Not like in the early days when she was child struggling to get by on clothes bought from disposal shops. Always working hard for scholarships and awards, working at hamburger joints from the time it was child labour laws allowed until she could no more stomach the smell of burgers as she could the scent of fat cooking under intense heat.

No, money was never going to be a problem.

But she did not do it for the money. She did it for the rush. The sheer joy of leaping of knowing that there was no lock she could not pick, a trap she could not escape. She enjoyed breaking out of cages and proving they were not invulnerable. There was no such thing an unworkable problem, just more challenging ones. Now, she had been here for a matter of weeks and already she was contemplating the idea that perhaps it was time to walk away.

She was at the head of the game and no longer needed to play.

It infuriated her that she could be even considering such a thing! This was her life, what she was born to do. Now thanks to one stupid ATF agent who had this strange propensity to turn up at the most unexpected times, she could barely concentrate on anything! While her nights were usually spent travelling under the rooftops, placing potential marks under observation to study their security measures, should she ever needed to get in, her days were uneventful. She only knew one person in town and her oldest friend was busy at work during the day, having troubles of her own. And what was she doing with her spare time? She was scouring the commercial sector of the newspaper, looking for a business to invest her considerable fortune.

This morning she had gone so far as to visit a small art gallery in the city that was on sale. She walked through the marble halls, listening to the drone of the owner as he informed her that he was quitting the place to take up residence in New York. She even glanced at the books and found that it was doing good business and had a tendency to support local artists, a concept, which appealed to her. The insanity of it all was while she was walking through the corridors of Spanish styled building, she could envision all sort of possibilities in the place.

She stopped pacing and stormed over to the rosewood desk. The papers for the purchase of the gallery lay there, mocking her with its presence. The ink where she had signed her name on the dotted line had sunk into the paper, creating an indelible impression she could not escape. She was now the proud owner of the Calliope Gallery. She owned a business! How could she own a business! She a frigging thief for Christ sake!

This was his fault. He had done this to her. He and that stupid remark of his!

"You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."

Who fell for a line like that in this day and age? It was so contrived! Not only contrived, it was pathetic and so typical of southern charm that she should be completely disgusted. Instead she felt her heart leap when he had said because it was the most sincere compliment anyone had ever given her and she was lost the moment it slipped past those tasty lips of his. When she had kissed him, she felt the sensation down to her toes and it was the most enjoyable kiss she had ever experienced.

This could not go on.

He threatened her entire existence by what he was engendering inside of her and she could not have it. Her life was fine as it was, she needed to disruption or alteration, no matter how strongly she felt for Mr Ezra Standish.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was glad to get home.

After spending the entire day watching to Chris Larabee and Mary Travis doing their best impressions of mating tigers from an episode of Wild Kingdom, he and the rest of the Team 7 were more than relieved when the clock finally struck five. The entire team except for their leader of course, shared a moment of complete solidarity when they all the rushed out the door, no longer wishing to be involved in the carnage that was the fledgling courtship of Chris and Mary. As it was the day had been a fruitless effort of phone calls and paper work, a duty whose tediousness had no words to describe it and had left Ezra daydreaming of more exciting chores, like watching paint dry or grass grow.

To make matters worse, on the way home, the Jaguar had decided to get a flat tire and Ezra who was usually meticulous about such things, realized that he had used his spare during that shoot out a week ago and had forgotten to replace it. After spending an hour on the freeway waiting by the side of the road while Nathan picked up a tire, he had finally made it to his apartment and decided that the safest place for him after a day like this was firmly beneath the covers of his bed.

He was in the process of opening his door, lost in thoughts about an evening listening to Caruso, while partaking in leftovers from the Chinese takeout he ordered the night before with a nice bottle of wine when two voices greeted him. Upon identifying them, Ezra realized that his estimation of a bad day was going to need serious re-evaluation by the time the night was over. Their voices coincided with the feel of metal pressing up against his spine. Instinctively, Ezra knew it was a gun.

"Hello there country boy," a decidedly Brooklyn Italian accent greeted him. "Long time no see."

Only one person he remembered in recent years had called him that and the realization of who stood behind him told Ezra he was in a great deal of trouble. Three years ago, he had been involved with an illegal gun running operation, upon which the case evidence dealt entirely with his testimony. The criminal in question had received a ten year sentence which in this day and age amounted to just about nothing since the man was now standing behind him.

"Why Mr Bertenelli, "Ezra said coolly, wearing the perennial poker face as always. "What a pleasant surprise." He could not see the man because his back was still to the door and the gun kept him from turning around but he was certain it was Johnny Bertenelli behind him. Bertenelli had a part of the family in New York until some indiscretion with a godfather’s daughter had him sent to the wilderness of New Mexico. Bertenelli had been attempting to claw his way back into the mainstream with a large weapons shipment when Ezra infiltrated the organisation and brought the whole operation down, permanently ending Bertenelli’s ambitions.

Boy, was he in trouble.

"Not for long," Bertenelli’s voice became menacing and sent a chill through Ezra’s bones as he spoke, his voice sounding like crushed glass. "Not for long."

+ + + + + + +

She was breaking into his apartment.

She was international cat burglar, who had broken into museums and art galleries with million dollar security systems and a goddamn ATF agent had driven her to break into minimum security building whose idea of security was a tenants’ poodle patrolling the grounds for its evening walk! That was no dignity in this, she told herself as she lowered herself onto his balcony. As the soft soles of her shoes touched the terra cotta tiles of the long balcony, which ran around his apartment, Julia had to admit he had something of a view. While the skyline of the city could not be escaped, there were some patches of green and trees that allowed a feeling of serenity.

She had no idea why she was here. When she was driving here in her red Masserati, she had been telling herself that it was a bad idea. However, she could not deny that she felt something for this man and in coming to that admission realized she knew very little about him.

Coming in through to window is going to be a great icebreaker, she thought to herself.

Dressed in soft black leader, she was a shadowy figure as she moved towards the balcony doors and froze at the noises she was hearing beyond the glass. She had expected him to be at home but alone and wondered if she ought to withdraw and try this some other time when she listened closely to the voices and the hard, abrupt sounds that caused her to identify it immediately.

Knuckles against flesh.

Pressing her face close to the glass, she peered through the slight opening in the curtains to see that he was tied to a chair. His face bruised and bleeding as two men, both armed with 45’s, one tucked away and the other brandished stood over him. The one who was not holding his gun was armed with a cutthroat razor and intended to do some serious damage with the blade. Ezra’s coat and shirt was splayed open and his chest exposed clearly indicating that his death when it came, was going to be slow and painful.

"By the time we’re done with you," the big, heavy set one with the pinkie ring and the expensive yet appalling ugly suit remarked. "You ain’t gonna be so pretty any more."

"Considering you have only yourself to base that comparison," Ezra said with complete dignity, even though blood was oozing from his split lip. "I am not overly concerned." The gambler was determined not to show fear to this fat, stupid slug of a man who reeked of bad odour and was massacring the English language with typical New Yorker arrogance. He knew that Bertenelli was going to kill him and at the moment, could not see any way out of his situation to change that outcome. However, he was sure as hell not going out of this life begging. Bertenelli was going to be robbed of that much at least.

"Always with the mouth," the man retorted, unimpressed by Ezra’s sarcasm and reacted by throwing another jewelled fist at the ATF agent’s face. Behind him his companion laughed, while twirling that damned razor about with every intention of using it on that perfect chest of his, Julia realized.

Time to put a stop to this, Julia thought with a wry smile on her lips as she prepared to throw herself into a situation she was not certain she would ever walk away from and she did not mean dealing with Stupid Mario Bros inside the room.

The balcony doors were unlocked. Since his apartment was almost six floors up from the ground, that was hardly surprising. Fortunately, the doors made no sound that was loud enough to attract the attention of the men whose purpose in the room had captured their undivided attention. The big guy was still working Ezra over pretty good and judging by the new bruises, Ezra could not take much more of this.

"Well hello darling." She stepped into the room and immediately brought things to a standstill. "Started without me?"

Ezra’s jaw dropped open while Bertenelli and his companion merely stared at this exciting creature dressed in black leather (what else?) appear before them, sauntering into the room with the sleek grace of a cat. What was she doing here? He wondered and felt his heart leapt with excitement until the realization that she had just walked into an extremely hazardous situation, dawned upon him.

"Perhaps my dear," Ezra said sputtering blood as he tried to speak. "You should depart the way you came. Now is not really a good time." He looked at her with a silent plea to leave while she could. These were dangerous men who would kill her if they had a chance. He would gladly endure the dying at the hands of these men if he knew that she had not jeopardized her own safety because of him.

"Of course it is," she replied and moved deeper into the room. "I’m sure your friends won’t mind." She flashed them a dazzling smile and continued approaching Bertenelli. She could see that he was truly worried about her and she was more than touched by the gesture but she was not leaving him here to suffer at the hands of these brutes.

"Who the fuck are you?" He growled as she moved in close, pressing her body against his.

Ezra watched in horror as Bertenelli appeared unswayed by such feminine wiles and was preparing to act. What was she doing here? Ezra wondered and wished she could have picked a less in opportune time to make her entrance. "Miss Fox..." Ezra spoke up again because he did not know what else to call her since their relationship, such as it was, had not progressed far enough for them to be on a first named basis.

"Hush now darling," she held a finger to her lips. "I was speaking to your friend..."

"I ain’t got nothing to say to you sister," Bertenelli growled. "Now sit the fuck down before I give you some of what I’m giving him."

He started to swing the gun in her direction when all of a sudden, she caught the arm holding it with her own and slammed her elbow with practised force into the mid section of his forearm. The ugly squelch of snapping bone ripped through the air as Bertenelli dropped the weapon immediately, screaming in agony as jagged edges protruded through broken flesh.

"Johnny!" His friend advanced trying to reach her with the blade. The mook was too damn stupid to go for the gun and since he was not going to do so, she decided she would help him along by not giving him the chance later. Throwing her leg out in a sidekick, the ball of her foot met the soft part of his stomach, causing damage immediately. She closed the distance between them in seconds, grabbing his hand and snapping the wrist so far back that it brought tears to Ezra’s eyes just hearing the crunch of bone. The other man let out a high piercing cry of pain as the blade clattered to the floor. His scream was soon cut short when she yanked him forward by his injured wrist and cut short his progress towards her with a palm strike that swept him off his feet and dropped him to the floor. He felt down, back first and she wasted no time retrieving the gun tucked in his trousers. However, she heard the sound of movement behind her coupled with Ezra shouting.

"Behind you!" He warned.

She turned around to see Johnny coming at her, crimson rage in his face as he clutched his broken arm and determined not to be beaten by a woman. She threw a back kick, aiming this one a little lower and struck the man where she was certain he was not going to get up again. Johnny let out a second scream as he collapsed onto the ground, holding his groin in agony as she searched the floor for the second gun. His friend had recovered enough to get on his knees when she retrieved Johnny’s gun and whirled around swiftly to face him.

"Take him and get out of here," she ordered both guns aimed squarely at him as she made her threat. "PMS is a real bitch isn’t it?"

Ezra watched with his jaw agape as he saw the smaller man was not about to argue with the beautiful woman who had just kicked both their asses with such ruthless efficiency that it was nearly art. Even though he was bleeding and aching from the beating inflicted by Bertenelli, Ezra found himself sigh with longing just as he had the first moment he had seen her at that fund raiser, wondering how such a magnificent creature could be such an enigma at times. What was she doing here? Not that he was complaining of course, she had just saved his life. Ezra had deemed himself to be insane of course, considering he was more concerned over why she was here instead of the fact that she had just kept him from a rather awful death. He could not help it.

She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Bertenelli’s savant complied immediately, picking up the groaning man off the floor before they both staggered out of the room, tail tucked between their legs and ice packs soon to take its place. Within seconds, they were gone and it was just Ezra alone with Fox once again. She looked at the guns in her hands with distaste before emptying the bullets in both chambers. The unused projectiles scattered across the floor upon making contact, disappearing under furniture and other places as she tossed both weapons onto the nearby sofa and started towards him.

"You don’t look so good, Agent Standish." She dropped to her knees and looked at him.

"I have been better," he admitted, finally allowing the pain he had been trying to hide show in his face. He did not want to display weakness in front of her but the bruises in his side, some older injuries inflicted by her and the newer ones, delivered courtesy of Mr Bertenelli and Co had culminated into throbbing ache he could no longer ignore. He could feel broken ribs.

"I can see that," Julia replied looking him over.

"What are you doing here?" He had to ask since to him that question held more importance than the need for medical treatment.

She went silent for a moment and the look of confidence that had been her trademark expression suddenly evaporated. "You’ve been driving me insane."

Ezra maintained his poker face even though he was pleased to know that he was not the only one whose life had been turned upside down by their meeting. "Is that a good thing?"

"Not for me," she remarked and let out a heavy sigh. Instead, she turned her attention to his split lip and started dabbing the blood with the corner of his shirttail. "I do not like emotional attachments."

"Then why are you here?" He asked, wishing she would untie him. He felt decidedly ineffectual, as it was already with her charging to his rescue kind of damsel in distress.

"I can’t answer that," she said with a frown. "I thought I might get to know you. See what it was about that’s gotten under my skin."

"Your timing was impeccable," he replied, taking the opportunity to express his gratitude after what she had done. "Thank you Miss Fox for saving my life."

"For now," she took a deep breath and let it go. "I think you can call me Julia."

"Julia." Ezra found himself smiling, happy that they were progressing to a point where she trusted him with a name. "Is that truly your name or is it some alias you used in your nocturnal activities?"

"It’s about as real as its going to get for us now," she retorted revealing no more than that. "I am sorry about hurting you," she replied, feeling genuine regret about that.

"I think you have made up for that with tonight’s performance, Julia," he replied, pulling at his restraints as an indication to be freed. "Would you mind undoing this ropes, I am feeling a little vulnerable at the moment."

She looked at him bound to the chair and suddenly an evil thought crossed her lips and she raised her green eyes to him. Instead of turning her attention to the restraints around his wrists, she began undoing the buttons of his shirt.

Ezra’s eyes widened and he stuttered his response. "What are you doing?"

"Making my apologies," she said with a smile as she exposed his chest to her and lowered her lips to the injuries she had inflicted upon him.

Ezra made some further remark following that action but was certain that everything that came from his mouth was pure gibberish.

Barely giving him time to come to grips with the situation, she smiled at him once again before lowering her head to his bruised ribs. She breathed gently against the mottled skin at first and then raised her gaze to his face, watching his eyes cloud over with the first sensations. Laving her tongue over the tender flesh, she allowed her warmth breath to caress him. His muscles jerked slightly, inciting her to continue. When the wet heat of her mouth started licking his skin, Ezra could only drop his head into the back of the seat and surrender completely to the incredible sensation of her lips on him.

Lost in the pleasure of the insistent sucking and laving his body was forced to endure, Ezra was unable to believe the day he was he was having. A moment ago, he was being set upon by two Italians who were bent on killing him. Out of nowhere, the woman of his dreams had appeared to rescue him from their clutches only to have her tease him mercilessly while he was still strapped to the chair, with blood oozing from a split lip. Good Lord, could things get any stranger?

"Actually," he whispered hoarsely, amazed at all that he could manage a coherent sentence while watching her exquisite lips moving up and down his aching side. "A simple sorry and perhaps an acceptance of a dinner invitation would have done."

"Well," she paused and Ezra decided he was never saying a word again, if she would just continue what she was doing. His body was aching in pain but the pleasure she was delivering with her mouth drove all that away and he quivered in anticipation for more of what she had just been doing to him. "This is dinner," she purred. "Depending on your perspective." She smiled wickedly before kissing him again.

"Oh dear lord," he gasped and decided he was not going to argue with her any more on this point.

When she placed her hands on either side of his thighs to hold him down, Ezra thought he was going to lose all sense completely. Somehow, he managed to maintain his control even though he could not help but groan loudly the more insistent her momentum became. With a start, he realized that he was being very vocal as he continued to writhe under her ministrations, while fighting her efforts to keep him still. The pleasure of what her soft lips was doing to him was beyond description.

Nothing gave Julia a greater sense of appreciation for a man then when she delivered this oral pleasure and was allowed to amuse herself with his intense reactions.

Ezra could hardly breathe. His entire world was centered around what she was doing to him. His fingers digging into the leather of the chair, his eyes closed as he wallowed in the ecstasy being delivered to him within the sensual heat of her mouth while she manipulated his body with ruthless pleasure and brought him closer and closer to the edge.

Ezra in the meantime could do nothing but tremble in the wake of this unbelievable experience as she continued her ministrations. God, it had been a long time. It had been too long since he had felt this kind of pleasure. He was astonished by how pliable he was with her.

Unfortunately, she could not continue this and he was hardly in a position to do anything else and thus raised herself back to eye level wit him before planting a long, passionate kiss where her tongue explored his and drove away the stinging pain of his split lip. He felt her hands resting gently on his chest before moving away but he hardly noticed it because since the first, her kisses had the power to make him forget everything. When she pulled away, he found himself breathless.

Julia smiled at him and got to her feet. "I’ve got to go."

"Now?" he exclaimed disappointed, wanting her to stay, wanting to pleasure her like she had done him. "But....."

"You are not in any shape for the main event, as much as I wish it were otherwise," she said winking at him before starting towards the balcony again. Before Ezra could say anything else, she had swept out of the room and he was alone once more.

Ezra was about to contemplate how he was going to get out of this chair when he noticed that the ropes around his wrists were untied.

"Lord, she’s good," he said with an affectionate smile on his face.

Suddenly, the moment was broken by the sudden arrival of Buck Wilmington and Nathan Jackson. The two men burst into the room, having seen the door ajar and knew instinctively that Ezra was too careful too allow his front door to be open for just anyone to enter unannounced.

"Ezra are you okay!" The big man demanded before stopping short at the sight of Ezra covered in bruises and blood.

"Good lord, they worked you over good!" Nathan exclaimed, hurrying to him.

"We just got the call about twenty minutes ago that Bertenelli was on the loose. Seems he used his family connections to wrangle himself an early parole. Chris called me and Nathan cause we were nearest to your apartment," Buck explained as he approached Ezra with less anxiety than Nathan. Ezra may talk like a Sunday school teacher at times but he was tough as they come and he would recover from his bruises, Buck was certain.

"Come talk to me," Nathan asked because Ezra had not spoken. Of course, with the injuries beating he must have endured to get these bruises, it was understandable if he did not feel particularly verbal but hell, this was Ezra. Ezra being silent was a very rare happenstance at any point and naturally concerned the healer. "It ain’t like you to go all quiet on us now."

"I’m fine.’ Ezra responded, wondering just how much he was going to omit when he was required to explain this. "Just fine. I do not suppose that either of you gentlemen have a cigarette on you?" He asked, sounding a little dazed as he made the request. He was dazed all right, just not from Bertenelli’s beating.

Buck looked at him. "I thought you quit."

"I did," Ezra said with an unusually satisfied smile on his face. "I just wanted one tonight."

"I suppose getting the crap kicked out of you qualifies as reason enough to take a smoke." Buck could not fault him for that, after all Ezra did look like he was put through something of an ordeal at Bertenelli’s hands.

"Yes," Ezra mused, letting out another deep sigh of longing before he answered Buck’s question. "It was quite unpleasant."

Nathan and Buck shook their heads in puzzlement, unable to understand the strange smile of contentment on his face even when they drove him to the hospital.

Part 4

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