Wicked as Lies (Wicked & Devoted #3) - Shayla Black Page 0,1

nickname came from?”

He kind of did because he’d probably get ribbed for it, but since one of the people who had stuck him with that moniker worked here, Zy knew he wasn’t getting out of it. “Some of the assholes I served with in Afghanistan decided I looked like Zac Efron. I’m not sure it was a compliment.”

“Since they basically called you pretty, I’m not sure it was, either. You poor bastard.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How long have you been Stateside?”

“Flew out of Qatar three days ago.”

“Still enjoying that jet lag, are you?”

“Yes, sir.” It had been particularly wicked when his alarm went off at five a.m. for his morning run.

“Then you’ll probably need some coffee while I introduce you to the others.”

Zy nodded. “I’d appreciate it.”

“You got it.” The colonel stepped aside and settled a big, war-worn hand on the nearby desk and directed his attention to the woman behind it. “This is Aspen, our temporary receptionist.”

“Hi.” The woman, a thirtyish brunette with big glasses and a granola-vegan vibe, smiled.

“Nice to meet you.” He nodded her way.

“She’ll be here for another couple of weeks. Our usual receptionist, Tessa, is on maternity leave, so Aspen has been filling in. And you know this guy…”

Zy saw his old buddy, Forest Scott, lumbering in his direction and met him halfway. “Hey, man. Now I remember why everyone calls you Trees. It’s been a few months, so I’d forgotten how damn tall you are.”

The big guy pulled him in for a bro-hug. “Bite my ass.”

“You’re not my type.” He slapped Trees on the back.

Yeah, they sometimes exchanged insults and pretended to bust each other’s balls, but Trees was more like a brother to Zy than the brother with whom he shared blood. He was grateful for the day Uncle Sam had introduced them. In the last nine years, Trees had saved his life—in more ways than one. Hell, he wouldn’t have this job now if not for his best friend. Instead, he probably would have jumped from contracting gig to contracting gig in one Middle Eastern war zone after another, a little more miserable each day. But Louisiana was good. And it was far from Silicon Valley—exactly what he needed to return to the States in peace.

“Back here you’ll find a coffee bar. I have the office to the left.” The colonel pointed down the hall. “In the corner by the window, the guy on the phone? That’s Cutter Bryant. He’s former military and a local from nearby Sunset.”

The whip-lean guy with the angular face and blond hair held up a hand and waved. Zy waved back.

“The guy settling into the desk beside him is Josiah Grant.” The colonel dropped his voice. “Former CIA.”

Big, buff Josiah stood and held out his hand. “Don’t hold that against me.”

Zy shook with him. “You got it.”

“What’s your background?”

“Served with Trees. Been out about eighteen months, contracting. I’m demolitions.”

“Oh, so you’re crazy?” Josiah teased.

Zy smiled. “Because I like to blow shit up?”

“That, and you’re friends with him.” Josiah pointed at Trees.

Everyone laughed, even Cutter, who ended his call and shook his hand.

After they exchanged a few pleasantries, the colonel escorted him down another hall, then pointed to a darkened office. “Copy room here.” Down a bit farther, they passed a closed door. “Storage. And down here...” He trekked to another alcove with two desks.

“Is where I sit,” Trees finished, then pointed to the empty desk under the window. “You’ll be here, buddy.”


Truly, it was. Trees was used to his kind of crazy. They’d never had angry words or a disagreement they couldn’t end with a good-natured punch, a fart joke, and a beer.

“So if you want to set your backpack there, yeah… That’s desk, sweet desk.” The colonel smiled, then motioned him to follow around a corner and past a concrete pillar. “And this is Pierce Walker.”

As the brawny guy with intense black eyes rose to his feet, Zy wondered why Walker was alone—and looked perfectly happy about it.

“One-Mile,” he corrected, extending an inked arm and a big hand his way.

“He’s our resident sniper,” the colonel supplied.

Instantly, the guy’s nickname made sense. Zy took his hand. “You have a one-mile kill-shot to your name?”

“A little over, yeah. A few years back. Sadr City, Iraq.”

“Shit, I heard about that. Of course, by the time I heard the story, your name was classified.”

The loner tugged at his beard with a cynical smile.

“And…that’s the whole happy family at this point. Why don’t you grab that java and meet me in my office?”

“Sure. Thanks.”