There had been a few moments since they'd all moved into the warehouse together that Sara had been struck by the attractiveness of her boyfriend's brother. It made sense that she found them both appealing, though because they were so vastly different, observing their distinctive charms was like looking from one end of the spectrum to the other all at once.
In fact, when Sara looked at Lincoln, she was positive he was the kind of man she would have been with before she got sober. Or perhaps a better way of saying it was that he once had been the kind of man she would have been powerless to resist, because all her good sense had been sucked up in a vortex of poor choices.
So there was just a nudge of guilt associated with even finding him attractive at all, because she liked to think that was all behind her now. Michael was her proof that she had really changed; her ability to hold it together lay in direct relationship to how she felt about him, and how he felt about her. She loved Michael. She was insanely attracted to Michael.
But while in the casino, working undercover with Lincoln, Roland and Fernando, they had all agreed they'd take it as far as they had too. This was their only chance at this portion of Scylla, so they couldn’t blow it. Whatever it took to get it—anything to make sure they weren’t caught—was the imperative mission.
She and Lincoln were playing a couple on vacation in Vegas, and Don Self had supplied them with upscale clothes and the appearance of people who could stand to lose a little (or a lot of) money at the casino and not sweat it. After targeting their mark at the Blackjack table, and playing a few rounds, they casually followed him to the elevator. Lincoln had Roland’s contraption in the inside pocket of his sport coat, and the simple plan involved just this: Following the guy, and coming up with an excuse to hold him there long enough for the copying process to complete, if their first strategic hold up didn’t work for some reason.
Roland was supposed to call Lincoln’s cell phone when the transfer was complete, and it was vitally important that everything go well. The first time. If they had to go to plan B—the not-so-simple-plan, someone would probably end up in jail.
She had her arm around Michael’s brother’s waist as they got on the elevator. The man they were following didn’t even look up at them as they entered behind him, he was too busy looking at his Blackberry, apparently deep in thought. As the elevator started moving, Sara felt Lincoln’s hand brush against her bare back, over the scars Gretchen’s madness had left behind. She turned her head and their eyes met; the sudden weightlessness that afflicted her stomach, she told herself, was only in relationship to the elevator’s upward motion.
When it stopped suddenly, it caused all three occupants to clutch at the available handrails, and became a welcomed distraction for her. This was Sucre’s handiwork, but who would have guessed that Michael could teach him how to both short circuit and repair something so easily? Fernando had laughed and said it was like stealing a car, so none of them should be too impressed with him, but as the elevator lurched to a halt and she was thrown against Lincoln, she felt impressed.
Perhaps it was the heat of Lincoln’s body that impressed her so much.
Their Blackberry-engrossed friend instantly reached for the elevator phone and dialed the service number, which was supposed to have been thwarted by Sucre as well. As he explained their predicament, he glanced over at Lincoln and Sara and clarified he was not alone. As he replaced the receiver, he looked at them again. “They said it will take at least ten minutes to isolate the problem. Hope you’re not claustrophobic,” he added with a grim smile. He seemed somewhat irritated by the delay, but by no means angry.
Lincoln’s arm surrounded her shoulder, the callused pads of his fingers brushing over her exposed skin. Tugging her against him, he said, his voice low and filled with innuendo, “Oh, no, we like small, enclosed spaces, don’t we, baby?”
Sara’s attempt at following his lead was nearly destroyed when she looked up into his eyes and saw the devilish glint there. So like his brother, in that instant, she simply had to take it to the next level—for the sake of the op. “The tighter, the better,” she quipped. “Isn’t that what you always say, baby?” She ran her hand up inside his sport jacket, the purpose of which was to turn Roland’s digital thief on, but she let her fingers linger against Lincoln’s chest once she’d finished that.
She watched as his eyes darkened—another quality he shared with his brother, and the world seemed to narrow for a moment. They had an audience, but they were neither Linc nor Sara in that space, and both of them turned up the heat on their performances.
“Here for pleasure, not business then, I take it,” their companion asked, which forced them to break eye contact with each other and turn their attention to him.
“All pleasure,” Lincoln said, his hand sliding down her arm, his fingers skimming the outer side of her breast before settling over her ass in an appreciate pat. “You know how it is,” he said conspiratorially to the other man.
Sara felt her face flush, and she liked to think anger prompted it because of the machismo erupting in the elevator not because once his hand settled on her bottom, he didn’t appear inclined to move it.
“That I do,” the gentlemen agreed, smiling at them. Sara began to feel uncomfortable with how long the man stared at her face, suddenly worrying that it had nothing to do with Lincoln’s inappropriateness. Instead, she feared that he might recognize one or the both of them, especially if the elevator didn’t start back up within the three-minute time frame Michael and Fernando had supposedly perfected.
Perhaps Lincoln sensed her discomfort, or he just came to the same conclusion, or maybe he had no good reason at all, Sara didn’t know, but he moved right then, spinning her around so that her back was up against the elevator wall. He kissed her as if no one was watching—and as if he meant it.
He kissed in an entirely different way than Michael did, and the fact that she was comparing them even as Lincoln’s tongue swirled through her mouth gave her hope that all this awkwardness, and flirtation, and the dangerous, dangerous line they were treading would end with the ringing of Lincoln’s cell phone.
Her hands gripped at his waist under his suit coat while she anticipated the ring, but the longer the kiss went on, the more involved she became in it and the likelihood of it ever ending felt more and more distant. Lincoln lifted his head so infinitesimally that his lips hovered just over hers, and she could read in his gaze that he too was beginning to lose the purpose of their being there.
The elevator jerked back into motion as Lincoln’s cell phone rang, and he backed up to reach inside his pocket. A feral grin spread across his face and he rumbled, “Who’s your daddy?” into the phone, though it was obvious he spoke to Sara.
She couldn’t hear Roland’s voice, but Lincoln’s nod and short, “Good,” was enough for her to know that their mission had been accomplished.
Their companion exited the elevator a few moments later, when they hit the 18th floor, leaving them alone, which allowed Sara’s ire to manifest itself. Turning an accusatory glare on him, she demanded, “What was that about?”
Lincoln’s mouth quirked in amusement, his eyes crinkling as he returned her fierce stare. “I embarrassed him. He wasn’t looking at us—“
“Oh, right!” Sara scoffed.
“—he was too busy being embarrassed.” When she just glared at him, he shrugged. “All right, we gave him a show, and maybe we turned him on, but trust me, he won’t ever remember what we looked like. Just what we did,” he said as an afterthought, his eyebrows going up suggestively.
Sara had seen a few other similarities between Michael and Lincoln before, but with this event, she was suddenly very aware of their shared DNA. Speechless for the moment, she wondered how he’d ever become aware of what other people noticed in a given situation, but as if reading her mind, he answered her thought. “My dad was a spy, Sara. Michael and I probably come by it naturally. The sneakiness, the lying. You have to remember that, and not get too mad at Michael when he keeps stuff from you. He has this weird way of looking at it—you know, like he’s doing you a favor.”
Sara felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. Lincoln’s statement was something she had suspected about Michael, but thus far she’d had nothing concrete to base it on. Of course he’d lied to her in Fox River, but that had been a different situation. She hadn’t caught him in a lie since they’d been reunited, but then again, it had only been eight days. “Are you trying to tell me something?” she asked as they reached the ground floor and the elevator doors re-opened to the casino’s busiest section.
He hesitated just briefly as they left the elevator. They were supposed to meet Roland and Fernando at the slot machines, make sure everything had gone smoothly, and then drive back to Los Angeles right away. “Just don’t take it personally, that’s all I meant.”
Sara reached out, grabbing him by the forearm and halting both of their steps toward their destination. “Don’t take what personally, exactly? You kissing me, or Michael lying to me?”
His eyes hardened, and the coldness she’d seen him exhibit towards some of the men in their little band of misfits from time to time sharpened in his features. “Both,” he said flatly. “You’re a beautiful woman and I’m a regular guy. I had an opportunity so I took it. Michael’s the exact opposite of that, I’m sure you’ve noticed. You might give him a thousand chances to tell you, and he’ll still find a way around it. What I do—it doesn’t mean anything. Everything Michael does means something.”
Sara waited a moment before responding, but she knew when it came down to it, Lincoln would win the quiet game every time. “These cryptic warnings are all I’m going to get, right?”
“Ask him about his health. Ask him if he was ever sick when he was kid. Ask him questions he can’t talk his way out of.” He shrugged her hand off and started towards the slot machines. “But try not to tell him I kissed you. And never tell him that you kissed me back.”