378. Alternative BOOK EXCERPT: The Agency: Marek and Tyrone ~ by J.J. Massa

The Agency: Marek and Tyrone

by J.J. Massa

Tyrone Johnson was aware the minute the furtive young man slid through the cafeteria doors. It had to be an internal thing because no sound was heard. He barely saw the flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye.

Still, he’d been waiting for this customer all night. Even knowing he wouldn’t be in until the place was empty, Tyrone had been anxious for his arrival.

“Hey there,” he said, keeping his deep voice low as the thin blond slid his tray along the counter.

His answer was a terse nod.

“So, how’s that sweet tooth of yours?” Tyrone asked quietly, his tone gentle and lightly teasing. He’d noticed that the junkyard thin man sometimes ate only deserts.

Dark gold eyes met his suspiciously. “Is hungry,” came his rusty, croaked reply.

Tyrone covertly looked him over. The spare frame looked even thinner than the last time he’d seen him. Paler, too, in fact.

“Well that’s just fine,” Tyrone smiled. “Jus’ fine. I’ve got something for you. Made it fresh.” He had to turn away from the startled look on the pallid white face. Leaning down, he fished around under the counter and produced a pecan pie, made special that very morning. “Here you go, friend.” He placed the glass pie plate on the counter. “Let me cut it for you. Come on, we’ll go over here to a table.”

Tyrone slid the sugary pie off the counter and turned, carrying it to a table in the corner. He didn’t look back to see if the other man was following. It might go either way. He couldn’t stop the smile blooming on his face when the almost-emaciated body slipped into a nearby chair.

“Is…” Wary eyes looked at the pie and then up at Tyrone. “It is mine?”

“Made it just for you. Knew you’d like it. It’s good for you, too, with the nuts and all,” Tyrone babbled, turning and cutting the pie. He deposited a gooey slice of the sweet, syrupy confection onto an empty plate. “I’m Tyrone, in case you didn’t know,” he mumbled, wiping his hands on his cooks’apron, for want of something to do.

“I am a spy,” the other man said dryly, shrugging his shoulders, a smile flitting across his face. “Marek,” he said with a nod, a forkful of pie making it clear that he had nothing else to say.

“Marek,” Tyrone repeated, sinking into the vacant chair opposite. “Is that Dutch?”

He was thrilled and a little stunned. He’d been nervous that his attentions would chase the other man away. Netting a name and a smile in the same visit was a lottery. Not to mention that this was the most talkative the thin blond had ever been.

“Mmmm,” Marek groaned, audibly enjoying his pie. “Slav,” he mumbled.

Taking yet another chance, Tyrone stuck a hand out. “Pleased to meet you, Marek,” he said.

Marek studied the extended hand for long moments. Tyrone let it hang there, though he was beginning to feel awkward. Just when he’d decided to pull back, Marek’s bony fingers brushed his palm.

“Thank you for this pie, Tyrone,” Marek said formally, adding, “It is very good.”

Tyrone could no more stop the grin spreading across his face than he could stop the sunrise, and that’s what it felt like, holding the thin hand in his. “I really hoped you’d like…” his breath caught at the sight of angry red welts wrapped around the wrist and forearm of his companion. He felt his eyes moisten. “Marek?” Someone had hurt him. He reached across the table and covered the welts with his free hand.

For a second, Marek attempted to pull his hand away; he stopped, instead reaching over, tapping lightly at Tyrone’s thick wrist. “It is over now, I am here.” He looked down and over again at Tyrone. “Here with this pie.” His lips turned up briefly, producing that elusive smile that Tyrone loved. “I am here with this pie and you.”

“Yeah,” Tyrone nodded, blinking away the emotion, grateful. He gave the injured arm a little rub, trying not to think of what the other arm might look like, not to imagine how the welts had gotten there. “Yeah, you’re right here. Safe.” He took a deep breath, dropping his hands, reluctantly. “Bet you’d like a cup of coffee to go with that pie, huh? Maybe a glass of milk?”

At Marek’s hesitant nod, Tyrone slid his chair back, gaining his feet. He’d rather sit and talk, and he would in a minute. Right now, he needed to collect himself. And while he was at it, he would see what he could do to help his young friend gain a few pounds.

Marek watched the large black man bustle away. Somehow, he hadn’t really known he’d escaped the last mission until he passed through those heavy swinging doors and caught sight of Tyrone, wiping down the counter.

He wasn’t sure what it was about the big man with the gentle eyes that made him feel so safe. Made him feel safe… Marek shook his head. That was just crazy. The only person he was sure he could trust absolutely was The Old Man.

There was something about Tyrone…something so compelling that he hadn’t been able to force himself to go home after Medical had released him. He had no food at his apartment, anyway–it just made sense to come here to the cafeteria first.

Marek knew better, though. He lied for a living, but he wouldn’t lie to himself. He had wanted to see Tyrone, wanted to hear his voice. Somewhere between a rumbling purr and a husky wheeze, Tyrone’s voice had drawn him from the start.

His face, too. Tyrone was a big man, built like an American linebacker. He was big, imposing, muscular, with a bald head and soft black hair on the warm, welcoming brown skin of his face.

Tyrone’s face was round and full, with generous, sensuous lips. His nose was wide, but not overly so. All in all, Marek found him mesmerizing–more so when Tyrone fixed his attention on him. And now, Tyrone had made him this wonderful pie, had been visibly upset that Marek had been hurt.

Marek turned that over in his mind. Until The Old Man had entered his life, he’d forgotten what it was to be cared for. The Old Man had taken him back from the Serbians that had held him, who had kept him as a workhorse when his family had been lost, one by one, during the conflict. He’d given Marek a purpose, a place to be to make things right.

The Old Man cared about Marek. He didn’t want Marek to be dead. Did he care if Marek was hurt? Yes, he did. But that was the cost of freedom. If Marek got hurt while making sure mothers and fathers could raise their babies, it was a small price to pay. And Marek didn’t mind paying it.

He couldn’t deny the warmth he’d felt deep inside at the hurt on Tyrone’s face. Hurt just for him. Tyrone didn’t like that he was in pain. He had stroked the rope burns on Marek’s forearm as if he could feel the pain himself and wanted to take it away.

At the same time, Marek didn’t like that Tyrone had to feel that. This care and consideration was strange to him. All he knew for sure was that he would go to great lengths to keep Tyrone from being hurt in any way. If that meant trying harder to avoid personal injury, he’d go that extra mile. Whatever it took to keep Tyrone smiling…and baking him pies.

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