Where Death Meets the Devil:Coda

By: L.J. Hayward

A Death and the Devil Short

When he woke up, it was to the scent of strongly brewed tea…

Jack Reardon snapped upright. Where was Ethan? What was he doing? Why was he here?

Then he heard the shower and let out an explosive breath of relief.

Jack looked around his bedroom. He’d fallen face first on the bed late at night, the room blackened by blinds on the windows. Now, so much later, it was day and soft light filtered in around the blinds, highlighting all the things that hadn’t been there when he’d gone to sleep. A pair of leather dress shoes by the door to the bedroom, suit pants and jacket on a hanger hooked to the front of his wardrobe and a weapons harness draped over the corner of his tallboy, two large handguns still in the holsters.

It was him. Ethan Blade. Notorious assassin, harbinger of chaos and bane of Jack’s stomach lining. Case in point, the queasiness hit right on schedule, burning away the last groggy vestiges of sleep.

“Christ,” Jack hissed. Not this again. Not so soon.

Scrambling out of bed, Jack hunted for something other than his underwear to be caught dead in. Because that was it. Despite the tea and the shower and the weapons just fucking hanging right there, there was a strong to very fatal chance this wasn’t a friendly incursion.

The clothes Jack had discarded on his single-minded drive for the comforts of home weren’t where he’d dropped them. They’d made a trail a blind person could have followed from front door to shower. The damp towel pooled on the floor at the foot of the tallboy with its open drawer described how he’d rummaged for a clean pair of boxer-briefs to sleep in. Now, the towel was gone and, yup, those were his dirty clothes neatly folded in the laundry basket.

That was a good sign, right? Ethan wouldn’t have tidied up if he was just here to “finish the job,” surely. Though, he was a bit fastidious about things being not so much tidy as correct. He would fiddle with his weapons harness until it lay absolutely perfect across his shoulders. Steeped his tea for an exact six minutes. Made his own ammunition. Planned every job down to the nth degree, even to the point of knowing exactly what would drive Jack crazy with paranoia . . .

On the surface, everything had seemed to end on a positive note. There was the smile and the teasing, not to mention the wink, but it wouldn’t be the first time Ethan had plotted mayhem behind a sweet, innocent façade. Jack had, after all, betrayed him, derailed his plan and, potentially been the cause of Ethan spending the rest of his life in a prison cell. It could well be Ethan wasn’t here for innocent reasons, but to finally get that revenge Jack had feared so many times in the desert.

Jack scrounged out a t-shit and was in the process of reaching for jeans when the shower shut off. The bathroom was just down the hall from the bedroom. He had maybe twenty, thirty seconds before Ethan emerged.

He considered grabbing one of the Desert Eagles from the harness but dismissed it quickly. Ethan would have planned for that move. There was the window. Jack had scouted an escape route along the outer wall, but again, Ethan had most likely thought of that. He could hide, catch Ethan in an ambush . . .

Who was he kidding? Running or fighting wasn’t going to work. Jack may have managed to catch Ethan by surprise once or twice now, but the crazy bastard was on to those tactics. Would have anticipated them and planned accordingly.

The door to the bathroom opened and now he was down to ten seconds.

Going with the only option left, Jack tossed his hastily gathered clothes into the laundry basket and threw himself back onto the bed. He crawled into position, pushing the sheet down in what he hoped was an inviting tangle and leaned back against the headboard, ankles crossed, arms folded over his bare chest. Just in time, too, as Ethan appeared in the bedroom doorway.

With divinely sculpted muscles and smooth, pale skin, Ethan wasn’t only ten different types of deadly, but at least that many types of sexy, as well. Not quite as tall as Jack, he had a long, lean perfectly proportioned frame, broad shoulders, narrow hips, sleek thighs and calves Jack could swoon over. His dark hair, damp from the shower, flopped over his forehead and water beaded on his upper arms. One of Jack’s fluffiest towels was around his trim waist and a pair of grey socks were on his feet. Unarmed but not vulnerable.