Home > Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(3)

Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(3)
Author: Julie Ann Walker

   It rankled, but he dutifully told her, “Thank you for finding the loophole that allows us to keep all this.” One corner of her mouth hitched up, but it fell into another straight line when he added, “I just would’ve liked the loophole better if it hadn’t meant we had to wait for a king tide smack-dab in the middle of hurricane season.”

   She shook her head. “All you had to do was wait for a king tide. That the next one happened to occur in the middle of hurricane season didn’t have anything to do with me. It was bad luck and worse timing.”

   “Not true.” He lifted a contradictory finger. “There was a king tide earlier in the year, but we missed it while you were poring over precedent.”

   “Wildly obscure precedent that I would again stress is the reason you’re able to keep all this. Now”—she pointed toward the hallway—“you see that door? For the love of god, do me a favor and go find out what’s on the other side of it.”

   He felt a chuckle rumbling around in his chest and suppressed it. “For the love of god? I thought you told me you weren’t religious.”

   “I wasn’t before I met you. But I’ve taken to getting down on my knees at night and praying for you to go mute.”

   One corner of his mouth lifted into a languid, flirtatious smile.

   Her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “What’s that look for?”

   “I’m imagining you down on your knees.”

   She gasped and left her mouth hanging open long after the sound escaped.

   Camilla D’ Angelo gave as good as she got when it came to oral arguments—thanks to all the practice her career provided, no doubt. But he’d learned he could beat her at her own game when he tossed in a little sexual innuendo.

   It was fascinating how she blinked and sputtered and blushed to the roots of her sleek, black hair when he hinted at anything carnal.

   “Oh!” She stomped her foot. “You are the most aggravating—”

   “Children!” Romeo yelled in exasperation. “I’m trying to count my riches like Scrooge McDuck, and your arguing is ruining the experience for me!”

   “Here, here,” Uncle John seconded from his seat at the emerald table. He had a jeweler’s loupe plugged into one eye, making him look like a Borg off Star Trek. Although, his Earnest Hemingway hair and salty seadog beard went a long way toward ruining the sci-fi effect.

   Before Doc could respond, the sound of bare feet slapping against the metal decking had him turning toward the computer room’s open door. The remaining four members of the Deep Six crew, all still wearing their wetsuits and leaving damp footprints behind, shuffled into the room.

   “Water’s startin’ to kick up out there,” Leo “The Lion” Anderson, their former lieutenant and the current head of their salvage operation, said as he folded a fresh stick of Big Red gum into his mouth. Glancing around the room, he asked in his slow, Southern drawl, “Where’s my wife?”

   “In the galley making cupcakes for dessert,” Cami told him before turning her attention to Brando “Bran” Pallidino. “By the way, I took your lasagnas out of the oven fifteen minutes ago like you asked.”

   Bran scrubbed a hand through his dripping, wavy brown hair and nodded his thanks. Before he could say anything, however, a larger than average wave rolled beneath the ship.

   “Erp.” Cami lifted a hand to her mouth, her skin paling instantly. But she was quick to drop her fingers and make a face at Bran. “Sorry. I promise that erp has nothing to do with your lasagnas. They look and smell delicious.”

   Doc crossed his arms and leveled a censorious look on her. The woman got seasick in a bathtub. And somehow she’d agreed to take on a job representing men who made their living on the ocean. “You didn’t take that Dramamine pill I gave you, did you?”

   She bristled and he imagined her as a black cat, back arched and hair raised. “First of all, you may be a doctor, but you’re not my doctor. And second of all, Dramamine makes me sleepy. I didn’t want to nap my way through all of this.” Again, she threw out an arm to indicate the treasure.

   “And now you’re paying the price.” His censorious look deepened. “You are the most stubborn woman to ever pull on a pair of pants.”

   Her chin jutted out. “You’re calling me stubborn? Oh, that’s rich.”

   LT sighed heavily—LT was the nickname everyone used for Leo; it was a nod to his former rank. “Have they been at it like this all afternoon?” he asked Romeo. But before Romeo could answer, he shook his head. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter. We have more important things to deal with than the ongoin’ animosity between our attorney and our resident malcontent.”

   “Hey!” Doc objected, snatching the toothpick from his mouth. “I’m not a malcontent. I’m just…” He stopped, searching for the right word.

   Perhaps he had been a malcontent. Once upon a time. In the years following his tragedy. But recently he’d been feeling so much better.

   What had caused the change in him?

   When it occurred that the better question was who had caused the change in him, he decided it was best just to shut his mouth and leave his sentence dangling.

   LT rolled his eyes and turned to Bran. “Go grab everyone and bring ’em here, will you, Brando? We need all hands on deck for this discussion, seein’ as how our decision on what to do next is gonna affect us all.”

   “I take it you weren’t able to finish.” Doc narrowed his eyes at his former lieutenant.

   LT shook his head, causing water droplets to drip from the ends of his sun-streaked hair. “But let’s wait to talk about it ’til we got everyone.”

   Doc recognized LT’s tone. It was the same one LT had used numerous times when they’d found themselves all the way in harm’s way, in the place where metal meets the meat. And hearing that tone now made Doc’s stomach sink.

   Of their own accord, his eyes tracked over to Cami. She too had picked up on the ominous ring in LT’s voice, and the expression on her face pretty much mirrored everything Doc was feeling. He was suddenly hit by the oddest urge to throw a comforting arm around her shoulders.

   Then again, maybe the urge wasn’t odd. Because as much as she vexed him, he liked her.

   Liked her swift mind and sharp tongue. Liked the ornery sparkle in her eyes when she was arguing with him. Liked the way her laugh sounded like pure delight when he said something to tickle her.

   In fact, were it not for her chosen profession, he could’ve imagined them becoming friends. The kind of friends to feed each other heaping helpings of shit on the reg, of course. But friends all the same.

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