April and I were rather careful not to spend too much time with Larabee after that. He was obsessed with the wedding, determined to take part in it as the dress designer—he had a special suit for me, too, even though I tried to remind him that I just needed to rent a black tux for a few hours. He refused to hear that.
So, by mutual agreement, April and I avoided Larabee, avoided the wedding planning, and stuck to our individual projects. She focused on her student teaching—forbidding me to visit her classroom in one of my younger forms—and I went back to hunting down the conspiracy.
Yes, that did mean watching my fiancee’s ex-boyfriend, of all things.
Clayton put his head down on his desk, not able to keep his eyes from blurring the words on the page anymore. He didn’t want to be at work anymore, but he wasn’t looking forward to what he was going to do afterward. He didn’t want to see Brady again, ever, and spying on him was worse. It wasn’t like he had any reason to be jealous—April had made it clear that she loved Clayton, not Brady, despite the whole genetic freak thing, and they were going to get married. He didn’t have to be intimidated by the fact that Brady was better looking, not a hopeless and hapless would be hero, and that he’d been with April first. No, Clay didn’t have to worry about that.
Except… he did.
He seemed to be having a very hard time dealing with the idea of April’s ex. It should be that hard, not really. She loved him, he loved her, and Brady was no part of this thing. They didn’t need him or want him involved.
April had her maid of honor and Clayton had his best man—and never mind that they were the same person who wanted to call himself the wedding’s mad scientist—they didn’t need anyone else. He wasn’t going to invite Brady to the wedding, that was for sure. That was just not happening.
Clay lifted his head, checking the corner of his computer screen. Time to quit and go home—only he wasn’t going home. He was going to spy on Brady. He reached into his pocket and dug out his bag of gummy bears. He was going to need them. He shut down his computer and grabbed the jacket April had given him, pulling it on has he went to the elevator.
He swiped his badge, stepped into the elevator, and pushed the button for the ground floor. He was really sick of his job. Maybe he could get better at surveillance and move on from being an almost useless analyst to something useful. Of course, the conspiracy issue had to be settled first.
“Heading out, Moore?” the guard asked as he came out of the elevator.
Clay nodded. “Yeah, it’s been a long day so far.”
“Congratulations, by the way. When’s the wedding?”
Clayton groaned. “I’m going to kill Larabee.”
“Was it supposed to be a secret?” the guard asked, smiling. “You know there’s no such thing as that around here.”
Yeah, Clay was all too aware of that.
Clayton adjusted his position and sighed. He honestly had no idea what Brady was doing hanging out in the mall, of all places. The only others around seemed to be teenage girls, giggling and laughing, mocking the clothes as they went past the stores. Oh, and mocking him, too. He’d had the foresight to bring along a change of clothes, at least, so he wasn’t sticking out like a sore thumb in a suit, but that didn’t mean that the girls were any nicer to him now than they had been when he was this age.
He ate another gummy bear and sipped from his smoothie. At least there was still one good—if ridiculously expensive—smoothie joint in the mall. Otherwise, he would have gone home and spied on Brady on a different day.
“Relax, it’s just kids,” Brady told the man who had joined him. He looked around the mall with disgust. “Stupid teenagers.”
“Don’t forget what we’re dealing with here. Are you sure none of these kids look familiar?”
Clayton slurped loudly from his smoothie, but Brady and the other man—one he thought he might have seen before but wasn’t sure about; all the suits seemed to look the same—didn’t pay any attention to him. He must have gotten the right spot, even if the fake plant kept touching the back of his neck because of the vent coming down right next to him. It reminded him of the tentacle, and he nearly shuddered but managed to control his reaction.
“No. They’re just kids. What did you want to talk to me about?”
“New development. Seems he’s going to marry the woman.”
Clay tried to stay still. They were talking about him. He’d been fairly convinced before, but now, he knew it. Him and April. If anything happened to her because of him… Who was he kidding? Like Ninety-Nine, April could handle herself better than he ever would be able to. Clay was looking forward to seeing her kick Brady’s ass.
“What do you expect me to do? Go there and try and rekindle our ‘romance’ before she gets married? She doesn’t want me. She made that clear. Why don’t you just try recruiting her directly?” Brady demanded. Clay smiled a little—even the jerk knew that April was never going back to him. That helped. Maybe now Clayton could really believe that, even in that nagging corner of his mind that wouldn’t stop the jealousy.
“She was approached. The initial response was deemed unfavorable. Try and rekindle a friendship with her. Report back anything she tells you about him. We know she has to know what he can do, but someone tipped off Larabee, and he’s been disabling all of our surveillance.”
Yes, go Larabee! Clayton thought and then sighed when he realized his smoothie was gone. He could sit here for a little while longer, but it was going to start looking suspicious soon enough.
He took out his phone and sent a message to April and Larabee, trying to look like a normal teenager. Brady involved. Not sure who else. They definitely know.
Larabee didn’t answer—for someone who dealt with science and technology and computers, he was a slow typist and never texted anyone. April’s answer, though, made Clay laugh out loud.
Bring gummy bears. I’m going to kick his ass. She’d written, and then, a second later, she sent another message. Oh, and I love you.
He smiled, getting out of his chair and throwing away the smoothie cup. Brady and the other man were arguing about the plan, getting nowhere, and it was probably time for him to move on. If they’d been close to the arcade or playground, this would have been easier.
“Well, now, I thought I recognized that face from somewhere.”
Clay shook his head. Impossible. The paranoid and prejudiced jerk that patrolled the warehouse here? His day job was guarding the mall? Or had he been demoted? This couldn’t be happening. No. Not even Clay was that unlucky, right? Still, when he turned to look, it was the security guard.
There was nothing else to do. He ran.