License to Kill – R. J. Blain

WİTHİN TEN HOURS of arriving back in the United States, I went from hopeful of resuming my career to benched as a possible anchor. The edict pissed Jake off, Sebastian sighed, and something about Pauline’s expression implied the woman didn’t mind I’d be serving as an unarmed secretary, as the FBI refused to acknowledge England’s qualifications and wouldn’t allow me to qualify for a period of two months, the earliest an injury like mine would normally heal. To add insult to injury, due to new information the FBI refused to share with me, they wanted me removed from anything that might even smell like the Greenwich case yesterday, if not sooner. I held my temper, although the familiar weight of dread settled back onto my shoulders. Some things I handled better than others. At least I understood the dread and the weariness. I had learned from carrying both around with me already. I could endure. I wouldn’t like it, my doubts would creep in and do their best to smother me, but I could endure. For how long, I wasn’t sure. What I would do when I no longer wanted to endure, I couldn’t begin to guess. Too much had changed. “It will be fine,” Pauline said when we left the meeting, and her tone allowed no argument. “This is a good thing, although you probably don’t see it that way right now. In two months, you’ll be settled, you’ll qualify again, and you’ll be back to work.

It benches us for the most part, too.” Jake grunted, as the news had involved him being shifted back to violent crimes until I qualified again, and I’d be anchoring in one of the nicer subsections of CARD, which involved following up on cold cases. I got the feeling I’d been swallowing a lot of lies without realizing it, and unlike the Fenerec, I couldn’t tell who was lying to me. “And that license to kill?” “I’ll look the other way if you get a few shots off at any of those bastards involved in the Greenwich case,” Jake’s father muttered. “Sebastian,” Pauline warned. “What? It’s true. We all want that case taken care of, and they shot both of them trying to tie up loose ends. I had not been expecting the risk evaluation to backfire so dramatically, though, especially not when they told us we’d be teaming together for CARD until further notice.” “CARD isn’t out of the picture; it’s just out of the picture until Karma qualifies again, and they won’t allow her to play the masquerade with the Normals due to inexperience. I was expecting a different result as well, but it is what it is, and we’ll just have to deal with it.

They’ll issue our license to kill when she’s ready for full active duty. Until their scents are stronger, this is unlikely. They only want solidly bonded pairings in the field together.” Scents? Solidly bonded pairings? “I thought there was no question of that?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at Jake’s mother. “Until you pass the scent check, it is what it is,” Pauline replied in a terse voice. I tugged on Jake’s sleeve. “Scent check?” Jake looked to make certain no one was listening to our conversation. “It’s how we identify mated pairs. Until someone can readily detect your scent on me and vice versa, we’re both considered available for partners. Ignore their fussing.

We’re fine.” According to Pauline’s expression, she didn’t agree. Great. Just what I needed on top of being pulled from duty. “But we’re married.” “And that’s not sufficient for them most days of the week. They care more about the scent. My wolf views you as my mate, and that’s all I care about. They don’t agree, and they’re only putting up a fuss because they expect the scent to be stronger by now, and it’s not.” I should have guessed some things were too good to be true.

While I had no idea how the future would play out, I’d deal with it as needed. “So, what’s next?” “I take you home, I get you settled, and we look into things for you to do to keep you from being bored while the interior staff find a placement for you,” Jake replied, parroting the briefing notes with disgusting accuracy. “You need time to settle, and you need time to get used to the house—and if you don’t like the house, we need time to buy a house.” Having been to Jake’s home numerous times, I raised a brow. “Your house is fine.” “Our house.” “I’m pretty sure it’s your house, but I can move some of my stuff into your house and claim some territory. Some time to deal with my apartment isn’t a bad idea, but that shouldn’t take me more than a week or two. I’ll pretend this anchoring bullshit is just giving me time to handle my apartment. I’m going to be poor pretty soon, though, if I don’t get a paycheck.

I guess I can file for unemployment.” “You’ll be working interior,” Pauline reminded me. “Interior staff are paid.” “I would rather start dropping acid while eating rusty nails in the hopes of contracting tetanus.” I wrinkled my nose. “I’ll likely resign and reapply to join if I’m going to be jerked around on it. I have zero interest in working interior. That is not what I worked so hard to do, and I won’t be doing it. I can pursue another career field of my choosing if interior is my only option.” Pauline scowled.

“That is not on the table for discussion, Karma.” “If I wanted to work interior, I would be working interior. Fine, I can’t qualify for two months. At least put me on proper leave then. I can evaluate in two months. I am fine with that. It’s not the first time I’ve had to do medical leave, and it won’t be the last.” In two months, a lot could change, and it could be for the better, although I doubted I’d appreciate the restrictions. “Medical leave is an appropriate solution to this problem, Pauline,” Jake’s father stated. “Medical leave doesn’t revisit a poor situation, it allows her to receive pay, and it gives her a chance to settle.

Jake can handle his work as normal. He has worked in the field long enough, he has the experience, and will be fine in the violent crimes division.” “I don’t like it.” “You don’t like it because you expect her to understand how we operate as a pack in the FBI. She has been cultivated as a Normal. If she wants to take medical leave, you will let her without complaining about it. It’s not your choice. She isn’t in the pack, and as she’s not a Fenerec, she won’t be in the pack. Don’t apply pack rules to her when they don’t apply and can’t apply. Leave it be.

If she wants to go back to school and become a teacher, you’ll not say a single word about it.” While Pauline had always crossed me as the inevitable victor of any disputes between her and her husband, she nodded without putting up a fight. Interesting. THE DAYS DRAGGED into each other, and the bitter transition from active FBI special agent to on medical leave to a stay-at-home wife wore away at me. The promised two months turned into three months, and I stared at the rest of my life with a relentless chill in my chest. I’d been right about the weight of dread and how it could smother me. I’d also been right about my abilities to endure. Every time I asked about qualifying and reapplying, someone made up some damned excuse. When it became apparent my medical leave would end in termination, my fox focused on what was important to her: having the family group Jake, his parents, and the member of his pack enjoyed. I could tell when Jake sensed something from his pack.

His eyes grew distant, and he forgot I existed, focusing on something I couldn’t see or hear. My fox grieved, and after having asked Jake yet again, sometime after three months bled into four, if I could become part of his pack, he’d started working longer hours to avoid me. By the time the fifth month slogged around, I accepted nothing would change. My packed bag waited by the door along with a new cell phone with an equally new number, and in an exercise of hubris, I’d texted my ma identifying myself in case she ever wanted to give me a call. Her reply offered the only glimmer of hope I’d had in months. She’d think about it and get back to me in a day or two; she had some business she had to attend to first. My fox could wait for a day or two for the chance to become a part of even a broken family. I could have left without a word, but my ma hadn’t raised me to be a coward. I’d tell Jake I was leaving right to his face, take my bag, and hit the road. I’d be hitting the road without a car, but I had two feet—and four feet when I got far enough away from civilization.

I’d walk to the bus stop ten miles away, get a ticket, and find somewhere new to call home. I figured I could find something in New York. I’d survived there once already. As he had every other day since our last fight, Jake came home late, and he smelled of some other woman. He lacked the stench of sex, but the scent broke my fox’s last hope there’d been an us. “I’m leaving,” I announced before my courage broke. Jake halted near the door, and his brows furrowed. “What?” “I’m leaving. You come home smelling like other women every night, you’re working late to avoid me, and I’m tired of being here, so I’m going. We’re over, Jake.

That’s what your pack wants, isn’t it? Well, you’re getting what you asked for. We’re over, and I’m leaving.” “Let’s talk about this,” Jake replied, but I questioned his sincerity. His voice lacked emotion. Mine did, too, when I thought about it. No, it was better for both of us if I pulled the plug without wasting our time with any other half-hearted, pointless efforts. “We’ve done all the talking we’re going to do. Why should we repeat the same old damn fight? I’m a fox. You’ve made it clear foxes don’t belong in wolf packs. You can’t give me what I want, and because I’m unstable, or so says everyone without even bothering to do a psychological evaluation, I can’t work.

I’m tired of waiting, so we’re done. It’s been five months. I’ve been waiting here for five months doing nothing. Five months. Two of medical leave, three of me being a trophy wife sitting in this house doing nothing at all.” My only contribution to the house had been the new coffee table, and I hoped the bastard thought of me every time he saw the damned thing until he got rid of it, too. Jake continued to frown. “Has it been that long?” “I guess you Fenerec just don’t notice how time passes, do you? It’s been that long. You lied to me. You gave me a lot of hopes and shit promises, and I’m done.

I’m leaving. I only waited because you deserved to hear it from me directly. I deserve better than this.” That counted as a lie, and I wondered if Jake smelled the truth on me. I wasn’t sure I cared. I strolled towards the door, and he caught my arm. “Wait, Karma.” “My guns and keys are in the kitchen, and I took a few hundred dollars out of the bank account until I can get settled elsewhere. You had your chance. You had five months worth of chances.

First, you supported me being benched because you were worried about my shoulder. Then, because your parents thought it was a good idea, you thought it’d be better for me if we took our time. While you worked and ignored me here because you couldn’t deal with me wanting in the pack. Not only have you been working and ignoring me, you’ve been doing so with other women. Maybe nobody can smell me on you, but I can smell them on you, and I’m tired of it. I won’t have my husband smelling like other women when he can’t give me the time of day. I don’t even care if you’re not cheating on me. Since scents are that fucking important to you, maybe you should have respected me enough to keep away from other women while still married to me.” Jake grimaced at that. “I can’t bring you into the pack.

” I shrugged. “Deal with it. It’s not my problem now. We’re done. You should have picked someone who cared a little less about being an equal.” I jerked my arm free. “Don’t touch me again.” “Karma.” “Stop saying my name while you’re at it. This isn’t up for negotiation.

You missed your chance to negotiate. You’re staying out late with other women, and you stand there daring to claim you want to talk to me? Fuck you. It’s over. We can talk about finalizing our divorce later, but there’s no us. I’ll send papers along after the separation period. You picked everyone else over me, and I’m tired of being the leftovers. You had your chance, and you decided to use it working cases while leaving me hanging out to dry. Goodbye. Don’t call, don’t bother me, and don’t look for me. Since I’m no longer on the active duty roster, I don’t need a partner, so I don’t need or want you in my life anymore.

” “They’re reinstating you as an agent.” Maybe a few months ago, that load of bullshit might have mattered. “The likelihood I am going to believe that is zero.” “The FBI can overturn your leave at any time and give you special agent status at their discretion,” he reminded me. “You’ll have to qualify again, but that’s a simple matter for you. Let’s talk about this.” “I told you, Jake. I’m done talking. If I’m magically reinstated and I fail to show for duty, well, they can send somebody to arrest me. Prison’s a better deal than this.

Don’t wait up for me, and don’t bother with following me. I’m not going to change my mind.” I grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder, and I closed the door behind me. I headed down the steps to the walkway and into the darkness. For once in his life, Jake listened to me, and he didn’t follow.

.

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