* * * * *
Dean tugged on a pair of track pants and paused in the bathroom long enough to pull back the curtain and land a satisfying, wet smack on Andrei’s ass. He danced out of the way laughing as Andrei spun with an indignant squawk to take a retaliatory swipe at him. “Ever vigilant! Dude, after all these years you’d think you’d have learned. Be happy I didn’t toss in cold water this time.”
Andrei jerked the shower curtain closed again. “You should be happy I’ve got too much shampoo in my hair to chase you down and beat your ass.”
Dean snickered and paused at the mirror to run a comb over his cropped hair. “Got me shaking there, babe. Seriously, I’m terrified.”
He was on his second cup of coffee and contemplating breakfast when Andrei came into the kitchen in jeans and a T-shirt, his hair lying in wet tangles about his face. Andrei needed a haircut. He was getting shaggy, and he hadn’t shaved as he usually did, though the stubble that still covered his cheeks and jaw was rather sexy.
Dean frowned as Andrei laid his ankle holster and pistol on the counter. “I thought you said you had paperwork to do.” Andrei rarely took a gun out on routine investigations. That he had picked this particular gun and holster told Dean that Andrei planned on going into a dangerous place instead of dealing with a possibly touchy, angry spouse, insurance scam, or reluctant witness.
“I always have paperwork to do. It’s vile and neverending.” Andrei poured himself a cup of coffee and sipped it straight black. It made Dean shudder; he had to have lots of cream, lots of sugar. Any other way was downright gross. “However, I’ve got to go into West Baltimore today. A lead came in on that missing teenager.”
Dean knew he shouldn’t worry. Andrei had been taking care of himself since he was fifteen, rarely letting anyone help him. Still he hated it when Andrei went among the crack houses with the drug dealers, spaced out addicts, and prostitutes. It didn’t take much for something to get ugly. Like trying to pull a kid out of there who didn’t want to be found or who had someone with a vested interest in seeing that the kid stayed put.
“You heading over there now?”
“Yeah, I don’t want to risk the trail going cold again, and the lead is solid. If you call my cell and I don’t answer, then it’s ’cause I’m still in the middle of it all.” Andrei propped his foot on the chair and strapped the holster at his ankle, then slipped the gun in place and checked to make sure it was secure.
As much as Dean didn’t like the sight of him with a gun, he couldn’t deny the satisfaction Andrei got out of solving cases that reunited kids with their families over the other bullshit. So even though he worried, he never said a word against him going. Andrei could not look away from a kid in trouble, and it would be unfair of Dean to ask him to, no matter how dangerous the case or how nonexistent the backup.
“You look like a hood rat, babe.”
Andrei glanced over at him and gave Dean a toothy grin. “Nice to know I’ll blend right in.”
“It’s giving me all kinds of ideas. Can I use your handcuffs on you later? I could be the upstanding guy making a citizen’s arrest.”
“You’ve got to get them away from me first.” Andrei’s gaze heated as he raked his gaze over Dean, making his pulse skip a beat. “And if you lose, oh buddy, I’m going to be doing the interrogating, not you.”
“Oooh, a wrestling match.” Dean pulled the carton of egg whites from the fridge and raised his brows as Andrei grabbed his wallet and keys. “Hey, what about breakfast? I’m cooking.”
“I’d love to take you up on that, but the timing on this may be critical.” Andrei looked around the counter and swiped an apple. “See, I’m all set. It’s even healthy, no Pop Tarts this morning.”
Dean gave up with a shake of his head. Trying to get a real meal into Andrei was an exercise in frustration sometimes. “Go out and save the day, mister hotshot private detective,” he said, smiling at him. “Again, ’cause you’re like that.”
“You have this image of heroism and me in your head that just doesn’t exist, iubito.” Andrei paused, a faint line appearing between his brows. “I spy on cheating spouses for the most part.”
“Yeah and then there are the days like this. I think these are the days you live for.” Dean slid his hand around the nape of Andrei’s neck and drew him in for a kiss. “I’ll call you later after I’ve won over the bank execs with my enthusiasm and charm.”
“You’d better.” Andrei smiled. “I’m proud of you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go on, get out of here. Be careful, okay?” Dean said, allowing that small part of his concern to show.
“I promise, Dean. I’m not going to let anything happen to me.”