Home > Saving Mr. Perfect (Penelope Blue #2)

Saving Mr. Perfect (Penelope Blue #2)
Author: Tamara Morgan

1


   THE HEIST


   Infiltrating the FBI is a lot more difficult than you might think.

   The seventh-floor waiting room in the New York field office is one I’m intimately familiar with. There are no windows to penetrate from the outside and no air vents big enough to squeeze through, which means it’s impossible to access this floor unless security clears you first. The fifty-something woman at the desk seems nice, what with the glasses perched on the end of her nose and the fresh flower pinned to her chiffon blouse, but she’d shiv you sooner than let you through the door.

   I know this because in addition to the gun she carries, Cheryl also has a letter opener that doubles as a throwing knife strapped to her upper thigh.

   And I know that because I’m the one who gave it to her.

   “Hey, Penelope,” Cheryl says with a smile that welcomes me and warns me not to make any sudden movements at the same time. “It’s lovely to have you visit us today.”

   Loosely translated, this means: I know you’re a thief, and I’m packing. What do you want?

   “I’m so happy to be here,” I reply. My own smile stretches wide and full of meaning. “How are the kids? And Dan?”

   In other words: I’m not scared of you. Also, I know where you live.

   “They’re good, they’re good. Dan got that promotion he was after, so that’s been pretty nice for us. We finally bought that gun safe we’ve been eyeing.”

   Meaning: We keep extra weapons at home. Don’t even think about it.

   “Safety is so important,” I agree.

   “Do you want me to let Grant know you’re here, hon?”

   “If you don’t mind. He’s not expecting me.”

   “Oh, how lovely,” she says. You’d think, from the way she beams at me, that she means it this time. She doesn’t. “Is it a surprise lunch date?”

   It’s a surprise something, that’s for sure. But all I do is offer her a bland look and say, “In a manner of speaking.”

   “I’ll buzz him.”

   And with that, I’m in as far as I’m going to get on my own. Only once in my life have I made it past Cheryl’s desk, and that was in handcuffs. It’s not an experience I’m keen on repeating.

   To pass the time until my husband’s arrival, I settle into one of the austere metal chairs set against an even more austere white wall and struggle to suppress my air of expectation. A buzz of adrenaline is common before a big job, and since it’s been more than six months since I’ve so much as looked at a lock the wrong way, my expectations and my buzz are flying.

   The fact that things are progressing exactly as planned only helps my high. I haven’t always loved the FBI—what with their spying on my every move and the arrest of my father earlier this year—but I can always count on their love of protocol.

   To Cheryl’s credit, she doesn’t make excuses as the minutes tick by and there’s no sign of my husband. To my credit, I don’t let my anxiety at his delay show. There’s a small window of opportunity for this particular job, and I need him to appear before Riker—my best friend and coconspirator—gets things started down below. In about five more minutes, I’m going to have to do something drastic (like fake a seizure) to get Grant out here.

   Fortunately, my acting skills aren’t put to the test. A shadow appears in the doorway before I hear the impressively faint sound of footsteps, and I know it must be Grant. No one moves as silently—or is as deadly—as my husband.

   “You’re here!” I cry. All six feet two inches of him fill the room—and my heart. Even considering what I’m about to do, I’m honestly happy to see him. He didn’t come home last night until the wee hours of the morning, and he left for work while I was in the shower—a schedule that’s been on repeat for much longer than I like. The occasional late night is par for the course when you’re married to an FBI agent, but tacit avoidance has become our default mode as of late.

   In any other marriage, such a thing might indicate waning sexual interest or a general lack of communication. In our marriage, it means one of us thinks the other has started stealing again.

   I’ll let you guess who.

   Grant accepts my proffered hug warily, one eye on the door, the other on his watch. I’m tempted to tell him it’s exactly 2:13 in the afternoon, give or take thirty seconds, but that might give too much away. I only pay such close attention to the passing of time when I’m up to no good—a fact he knows from personal experience. I want to throw him off guard, not set him on high alert.

   “My sweet darling, how I’ve missed you!” I say instead, dialing my beaming smile up to twelve. “I’ve been waiting for the chance to wrap my arms around you all day.”

   He doesn’t miss a beat. “Okay, who are you and what have you done with my wife?”

   “That’s unfair.” I feign outrage with a flick of my ponytail, the more-blond-than-red hair pulled back in the lifelong style I can’t seem to shake. As my role in the breaking and entering circuit used to involve squeezing into tight spaces, I grew accustomed to minimizing the amount of space I took up—hair included. Nothing is more disastrous than squeezing yourself inside an air conditioning duct only to have your hair sucked into the blades. “Can’t I be happy to see you?”

   “You could be, but you’re not.”

   I fake a pout. “How can you tell?”

   “For starters? Not only have you never called me my sweet anything before, but your skin is flushed, and your pupils are dilated. What are you up to, Penelope Blue?”

   I bite back a laugh. His air of distrust is offset by the familiar playful rhyme, a singsong form of address he’s used since the day we first met. It’s always been one of my favorite sounds—that combination of suspicion and adoration in Grant’s voice. I like to think it’s how he shows his love.

   “I’m not up to anything.” At least, I’m not up to anything yet. The action isn’t set to start until 2:20, which means I’ve got about five more minutes to keep his attention focused by being suspiciously charming and wifely. “Maybe I’m flushed because I’m happy to see you. Did you ever think about that?”

   “Once. Maybe twice. Then I learned better.”

   His eyes narrow as he continues assessing me from top to bottom. I attempt to keep my breathing mostly even and my posture just a little too relaxed—I want him to be suspicious, but I don’t want him to catch on that I want him to be suspicious. It’s harder than it seems under his special brand of scrutiny. Grant is very good at his job.

   He’s so good at it, in fact, that his face doesn’t register even a flicker of surprise when he reaches my feet and catches a glimpse of my footwear. Normally, I’m all about functional flats and comfort soles, but this is a special occasion. Today, I’ve paired my black skinny jeans with bright-red peep-toe heels that threaten to topple me with every step.

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