Dangerous in ActionBy: Sidney Bristol
Aegis Group Alpha Team #2
Wednesday. Aegis Group Headquarters, Seattle, WA.
Isaac Cohen balled his hands into fists and stared at the glass door twenty yards ahead of him. He fought against the urge to lengthen his stride and put as much distance between him and his problems as quickly as possible. Work was a haven, a place he didn’t have to think about the real world, so when he passed through the doors of the Seattle Aegis Group headquarters, he needed to have a cooler mindset. People’s lives depended on the work they did.
He planted his right foot and pivoted, following the path around the building. The skies reflected his mood—stormy, gray, and brooding.
How could Ruth do this? Just surprise him like that?
Isaac strode around the covered patio and the picnic tables. He stopped at the edge of the concrete slab and stared at the undisturbed surface of the reflecting pool.
When Ruth had asked Isaac to come over and help her move into her new place, he’d never once suspected she’d had ulterior motives. She was just—Ruth. His dead brother’s fiancée. Family, as far as he was concerned. Which was why he’d expected some sort of warning. Instead, he’d nearly face planted into the pint-sized, soft-spoken man who was trying to take Joshua’s place in Ruth’s life and their family.
It’d been—what? Three years since Joshua’s death? It was too soon to move on, to lay his memory to rest, and yet that’s what Ruth was trying to do.
“You coming inside?”
Isaac turned at the sound of the other man’s voice.
“We’re waiting on you.” Shane gestured at the doors.
“I’ve got five minutes.”
“All right.” Shane shrugged and took a step back.
Isaac entertained the idea of throwing a punch at Shane, but discarded it. He’d already been busted once for landing a cheap shot on the guy after one too many beers. Besides, Shane had a head like concrete. That punch would hurt Isaac more than Shane, and they had a gig. Which brought Isaac back to the problem at hand.
He stared at the water, raindrops rippling the surface of the pool.
Nothing stayed the same.
Deep down he’d always known Ruth would find someone else. She was too much of a good soul to not be loved. Even Isaac’s parents had mourned and moved on. But Isaac had never stopped being angry. Never properly grieved or gotten over it. While everyone else had been gripped with grief, Isaac had needed to hold it all together for them. The anger management counselor he’d had to see after the bar altercation had gone on at length about how his failure to deal with losing his brother impacted him.
Tell me something I don’t know.
He sucked in a deep breath and blew it out.
Joshua was dead. Isaac wasn’t.
Everyone else had adjusted to those two facts, their functional lives moving on.
Did Mom and Dad ever wish it had been him who’d died? Did Ruth?
Joshua had always been the favorite, the darling of the family. He hadn’t needed to go into the SEALs, but it’d been a challenge, and Joshua could never say no to that. With his brains, he could have gone far, but he’d wanted to be in the thick of it, boots on the ground and all that. In the end, that was what’d killed him. And Isaac had been there, the little brother without an ounce of direction, following in Joshua’s footsteps. And now Joshua was dead, and Isaac wasn’t.
His phone buzzed, interrupting the common refrain. He pulled it out and glanced at the screen, wincing at Mom’s face. She always did have great timing.
He could ignore it. The time was ticking down to the emergency briefing. And yet, if he did that, she’d have one more thing to guilt him over. She didn’t set out to make him feel remorse for his actions, but damn if his choices didn’t gnaw at him a little more whenever they spoke. She was like a second, more tenacious conscience outside of his body.
“Hello, dear. Ruth said you had to leave in a hurry?”
“Yeah, got called into work. You know how it is.”
“Did you get a chance to meet—?”
“You knew?” Isaac stared at the reflecting pool, the shifting surface bearing some resemblance to his thoughts. He’d assumed that if Ruth hadn’t told him, she hadn’t told anyone in the family.