Danny stared at the case on his computer, doing his best to focus, but his attention kept straying to the picture of Grace beside the computer. He hadn’t seen her in three months—Skype didn’t count—and he was going crazy stuck in New Jersey while she made a new home for herself in Hawaii.
Danny looked over his shoulder. “Hey, Martinez, you heading out?”
Martinez shook his head as he sat down. “Still have a case to file. But the Captain wants to see you.”
“Great, probably not going home then,” Danny said, standing up and straightening his tie. “Not that I have anything to go home to.”
Martinez made a face. “No idea when Honolulu PD might have an opening?”
“Nope. I just keep getting the runaround.” Danny started towards the Captain’s office. “Mall security cop is starting to sound pretty good,” he called over his shoulder to Martinez, as he walked into the Captain’s office.
“Don’t quit your day job just yet,” Captain Ryan said, waving a hand at one of the chairs in front of his desk.
Danny took a seat. “No plans just yet.”
“Good.” Ryan leaned back in his chair. “Because I just got off the phone with someone from the Honolulu Police Department.”
Danny sat up straighter. “They have an opening?”
“They need someone from outside for an undercover assignment. They called me for a reference and explained the situation. You’d be on loan from here, but if it goes well, they said they think they could have an opening for you.”
Which was better than his prospects of seeing Grace a few minutes ago. Assuming he could get to see her if he was undercover. “So what’s the job?”
“Just remember, it means you get to see Grace.”
With an intro like that, he had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it. But he also knew he couldn’t say no.
Danny opened his eyes to see a skinny kid in cargo shorts and a dark t-shirt, his hair pulled back in a messy ponytail. “Yeah,” Danny said, pushing off the gate that had been holding him up. “I’m Danny Williams.”
“I’m Kimo. Come on.”
Kimo turned and walked through the gate. Danny followed him up the drive, glancing over his shoulder to see it close and lock behind them, his car just visible through the thick iron bars in the parking lot outside. “All that for a TV show?” Danny said.
“Not just a TV show,” Kimo said. “Forever in Paradise is a top rated summer show. Bookies take bets. We can’t have people sneaking in and getting inside info.” He shot a look over his shoulder at Danny. “You know how it is.”
“Yeah,” Danny said, because he was supposed to know. Or, rather, Danny Williams, experienced producer, was supposed to know. For while Danny had received 48 hours of almost no sleep, all training, and a shit ton of notes squirreled away on his phone on how to pretend to be a TV producer, his cover identity had spent three years working on some reality show in England that Danny had never heard of until two days ago. “I wouldn’t think that would be as much of a problem, shooting out here in Hawaii, though.”
Kimo laughed as he got to a door in the brick wall that surrounded the place. “You’d think,” he said, as he stopped to open the door. “But some crazy haoles come here just to sneak onto the set.”
“What’s a haole?” Danny asked.
Kimo laughed again. “You are, brah.”
He opened the door and pushed through, Danny close behind, still trying to decide if he should be offended. The question was lost as he looked around to see a pool set with lush flowers and greenery and enough tents and couches to host an orgy. Or several of them. A hot tub big enough for about twenty lay to one side of the pool, and to the other was a large patio leading into a mansion.
All of this was familiar from the promotional pictures Danny had seen during his training. The pictures had just been careful to exclude the equipment everywhere, the food tables—craft services, he reminded himself—and the hordes of crew members wandering around dressed nothing like the show’s actual cast.
If one could call a fame-seeking pretty boy and a bunch of trophy wife wannabes a cast.
“Boss wants to see you,” Kimo said. “He’s in the house, watching the filming.”
Danny frowned. “I thought filming started tonight.”
“The girls arriving, yeah,” Kimo said, leading Danny into the back of the house. “But they’re doing some talking head pickup stuff with the Stud.” Kimo rolled his eyes. “Sorry, ‘The Suitor’—we were told to watch the nicknames in the house. Anyway, it’s a bunch of that ‘I hope to meet the woman of my dreams,’ blah blah blah—same stuff every year, all of it bull.”
Kimo snagged a bottle of water from a table and offered it to Danny, who took it gladly. The heat of Hawaii was something he’d have to put up with to be close to Grace, but he didn’t think he’d ever adjust.
Kimo glanced around a corner, then pulled his head back. “Set’s hot,” he said, turning around to go the other way. “Let’s go watch the screens.”
He led Danny to a living room with a couple of monitors, several people standing around, watching or taking notes. Danny glanced at the screens and got his first real glimpse of the show’s star prize, Steve McGarrett, their Suitor looking for love.
They’d certainly chosen well—if Danny had a few less brain cells and a lot less dignity, he’d go on TV for a chance at this guy. Not that that particular brand of reality would ever make it to mainstream TV—the hearts of the heartland could only stand so much ‘real’ in their ‘reality’ TV.
The one small picture Danny had seen hadn’t done him justice. Off screen, the producer asked him what he was looking for in the contestants. “Brains,” McGarrett said. “I don’t want just a pretty face. Of course,” he said, ducking his head and looking up at the camera with a sly smile, “the pretty face combined with the brains would be nice.”
The camera paused on him for a few seconds before the producer said, “Cut. Let’s take five.”
The rest of what he said was lost as Kimo tugged on Danny’s arm. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go meet the Boss.”
Danny followed Kimo around to the living room, where McGarrett was talking with the show’s executive producer, Frank Gil. Danny knew a lot more about Gil than he could let on, so he put on a blank smile as Kimo introduced him with a relaxed, “Boss, new guy,” before walking away.
“Danny Williams,” Danny said, shaking Gil’s hand.
“Great to have you here, Danny,” Gil said, giving Danny a firm handshake. “We heard good things about your work on Enchanted over in the UK. Appreciate you stepping in last minute.” Gil turned to McGarrett. “Steve, this is Danny Williams.”
Danny shook Steve’s proffered hand, hiding any reaction to the little shock that went through him at the first touch of Steve’s palm to his. This was not the time or the place for distractions like that, even if the warmth in Steve’s eyes was doing nothing to stop the feeling.
“Great to meet you,” Steve said.
Danny let go of Steve’s hand with a little effort and took a step back. “You, too.”
“Danny will be your go to guy,” Gil told Steve. “He’ll make sure you stay on schedule, and if you need anything, you just ask him.”
At the words, Steve seemed to go a little still, that warmth quickly dampened like a cloud covering the sun. “Got it,” he said, the words cold and terse. He nodded curtly at Danny, then looked at Gil. “Be back in a couple of minutes,” he said, before stalking off.
Danny watched him go, trying to figure out what had happened. They’d aimed Danny’s fake background and all of the information the studio contact helping them had given the show at getting him paired up with Steve. With Steve, Danny would have a little more freedom and accessibility to all the remote shots. He could move around the crew and talk with more people than if he was assigned to a specific spot or with the Contestants.
If Steve didn’t want to work with him, they would have a problem.
Danny glanced at Gil, who was frowning after Steve. “You up to the task of wrangling him?” Gil asked, meeting Danny’s eyes. “He’s been a little touchy with everyone at times. For all that he’s trying his best, I don’t think he’s the most comfortable in this role of the guys we’ve had.”
He’d seemed like a natural when Danny had been watching the filming, but that was his only exposure to it so far, and Gil’s job was to read the Suitor and Contestants, so what did Danny know? “Yeah, don’t worry, I’ll get him in line. Just give me a few minutes.”
Danny started quickly down the same path Steve had taken, determined to gain Steve’s trust. No hopped up rich guy was going to keep Danny from getting the job that kept him with his daughter.
He found Steve sitting on a stone bench in one of the hidden gardens designed to provide little private moments on the show. Of course, ‘hidden’ meant there were at least five cameras in the bushes, but they weren’t turned on yet, not without the contestants there. No point in wasting film. Or hard drive space. Whatever.
Steve looked up as Danny approached. “Come to wrangle me already?” Steve asked. He looked awfully tired for the start of this whole debacle.
Danny sat down next to him. “You know that word, huh?”
“Hard not to pick up on the lingo,” Steve said with a shrug. “Especially when they all seem to think I have bad hearing to go with my bad judgment.”
“What bad judgment?”
“The decisions that landed me here.” Steve shook his head. “Never mind. Doesn’t matter.”
Danny shifted around until he was half facing Steve, his knee on its side on the bench. “You know,” he said carefully, “this wasn’t what I’d planned to be doing with my life, either.”
“You mean you didn’t intentionally set out to be one step above a pimp?”
Steve’s smile seemed genuine. “Sorry, really. I don’t think you’re a pimp.” His brow furrowed, and Danny told his brain it was absolutely not cute. “Unless, of course, you actually call me ‘Stud.’”
Danny laughed. “I solemnly promise never to call you ‘Stud’ with any seriousness whatsoever,” he said. “And as for intentionally setting out to do this, no. I didn’t.” Danny stared at the pink flowers just over Steve’s shoulder. “My wife was English,” Danny said. “And a degree from film school didn’t do me a lot of good as a Yank in King Arthur’s Court, so to speak. So I took the job I could get to be with her and my daughter.”
Steve bought into the carefully crafted cover story without question. “So what happened?”
“I was drunk and stupid and my wife caught me kissing someone else.”
“Ouch,” Steve said with a wince. “I see now why they put you with me instead of one of the girls,” Steve said with a crooked grin. “Worried they couldn’t trust you?”
“Yeah, uh….” Danny looked away, rubbing at the sudden itch at the back of his neck, “they don’t know about that. And if that was the case, they’d have put me with the girls.”
He glanced back at Steve, watched as he worked through that statement and understanding dawned. “Oh,” he said. “I can see why that might’ve been more of a marriage-breaker.”
And it was, even if the real story hadn’t involved actual cheating. Danny had just realized he couldn’t stay married to Rachel, not when it was more and more difficult to sleep with her without imagining her having completely different body parts.
“I’d say.” Danny looked back at the flowers. “Especially since she moved my kid a million miles away to punish me. The joke was on her, though. The moment this job came up, I took it.”
“Hey,” Steve said suddenly, touching Danny’s knee. “I thought your job was to get me to open up to you, not the other way around.”
Danny laughed. “Yeah, well, I thought you might want to know what you were getting into.” And honesty had a way of inviting honesty, not that he was admitting to that motivation out loud. “Since apparently you didn’t know what you were getting into when you signed on, judging by your extreme aversion to everything from the nickname to being wrangled. Did they tell you it was going to be weeks of lying by a pool with the girls followed by an engagement or something?”
Steve took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before he answered. “I knew what I was signing on for,” he said. “I just…I didn’t have a lot of other options, so I signed.”
“So, what, six months ago you’re a Navy SEAL off being a badass in some country I can’t pronounce, three months ago you’re taking care of your ailing father’s shipping company, and suddenly your only option is this month’s Stud?” At Steve’s glare—which held no anger whatsoever—Danny grinned. “I said I wouldn’t call you that seriously. I didn’t say I wasn’t going to mock you with it.”
Steve’s delighted laughter was a surprise, and something that hit Danny in the gut, the want coiled up there like it had been there a while, even though he’d only met the guy five minutes ago.
“Things happen,” Steve said. “The business…when Dad had his heart attack, he couldn’t run it anymore. And I realized I was missing out on having him in my life. Then I saw the decisions his officers were making in his absence, and I couldn’t help it. By then they’d done some things that were…less than ideal business, we’ll call it. And this opportunity came up, with a chance to change things, so…I did what I had to do.”
There was more to the story, Danny could see it in the way Steve’s eyes became guarded as he talked, even as the words had a ring of truth. “So basically, we’re both here because we can’t be anywhere else, no matter how much we want to be?”
Steve huffed out a laugh. “Sounds like it, yeah.”
“Okay, I’ll make you a deal,” Danny said. “Let me do my job, so I can stay with my daughter, and I promise to be the least annoying wrangler I can possibly be, and not to be a manipulative asshole.”
Steve blinked, clearly not expecting the honesty. “Okay,” he said slowly. “On one condition. Be straight with me.”
Danny raised both his eyebrows. “Sorry,” he said, deadpan, “that didn’t even work for my wife.”
Steve laughed, his head thrown back, and Danny couldn’t help but stare at his throat. “You know what I mean,” Steve said, meeting Danny’s gaze again.
“Yeah, I do,” Danny said. “And I will be as honest with you as I possibly can.”
“As you can?”
He sounded cautious, and Danny figured out how to answer honestly without lying. Because he’d promised. And he didn’t want to lie to this guy anyway. “Well…I’m not giving you the details about the guy I met at the bar last week, for example. Unless,” Danny said, leaning in and lowering his voice, “you ask really nicely.”
This time the laughter was tinged with something else, and it took Danny a moment to decipher it, his heart racing and sinking at the same time. Because that sound, the way Steve leaned in, and how his eyes got darker couldn’t be any clearer. There was no way to deny that Steve was just as interested in Danny as Danny was in him.
And this was going to end in disaster if they both didn’t tread very, very carefully.
When Steve went off to get dressed for the arrival of the contestants, Danny took a few minutes to find a secluded bathroom in the house, since no cameras were allowed in the bathrooms, and call his HPD contact.
Chin answered on the first ring. “How goes it in the world of bikini clad women?” he asked.
“Very funny.” They’d only had about an hour during Danny’s rush training to sit and talk, but they’d hit it off, and Danny could use a friend right now. “When I meet Malia, I’m gonna tell her that was the first thing you asked.”
Chin laughed. “She knows I only have eyes for her.”
“Yeah, we’ll see.” Danny rubbed his eyes, wondering if he could manage a nap before filming started. “I got paired up with McGarrett,” he said, even though it already felt odd not to be calling him Steve.
“Good. Wish the news was as good on this end,” Chin said. “But the DA is refusing to give the dealer we busted a hundred percent immunity, and the dealer’s refusing to give us the name of his contact on Forever in Paradise, or the cop, without that promise. So we have no way of knowing who’s involved.”
Danny groaned. He’d kind of been hoping for a quick resolution. “The DA doesn’t realize we could bring down a whole drug smuggling ring with those names?”
“The DA says he’s not convinced Johnson actually knows any names. And that his word alone wouldn’t be enough to convict them. Honestly, though,” Chin added, “the DA is up for re-election and doesn’t want to be seen as soft on drugs.”
Danny huffed. “Or he’s in on it. Drug money buys a lot of re-election advertising.”
“A ring this big, it’s hard to tell who’s involved.”
“Yeah.” Danny sighed. “But we’re sure someone on this show is involved?”
“Well, like the DA says, our suspect’s word alone isn’t enough to convict anyone. But it adds up the more we look into the story.”
“So I’m still stuck here.”
“Yeah. Sorry, brah.”
Danny heard a noise outside and flushed the toilet to cover the conversation. “I should get back. McGarrett will be ready to be wrangled soon.”
“I’d love to see that,” Chin said. “I haven’t seen Steve in ages, but he wasn’t very easy to wrangle in high school.”
“You knew him?”
“Yeah. He was a few years behind me in school. Broke all my football records.
Of course he did. “Figures.” He heard more noises outside before he could get any more info. “Gotta go. I’ll check in later.”
He hung up the phone and turned on the water, pretending to wash his hands before he opened the door and headed out to find Steve.
Danny knocked on Steve’s door, footsteps echoing on the other side, getting closer until the door opened. “Time to lead me to the slaughter already?” Steve asked.
It took Danny a second to answer, because the suit Steve was wearing looked tailor made for him. Which, Danny figured, it probably was. It certainly showed off his body to every advantage—and given all his advantages, that was saying something. “Uh…yeah, sorry. They’re getting ready to bring the girls in.”
Steve took a long, slow breath, letting it out just as slowly, his eyes closed for a moment before they opened again, focusing on Danny. “Okay, wrangle away.”
They made their way from Steve’s second floor suite to the main lobby, where Gil and many of the crew members waited with the show’s host, Brent Cameron.
As Steve descended the stairs, everyone milling around stopped to applaud. Danny jogged down the stairs in time to watch Steve take the last few, noting how uncomfortable he seemed with the attention. He was all smiles, though, thanking everyone as he submitted to being miked up.
Once the microphone pack was in place, a couple of women fussed with Steve’s jacket, his hair and his face until they were satisfied they’d somehow managed to improve upon perfection and left him alone. Danny grabbed a bottle of water and took it over to Steve, putting it in his hand.
“Drink this,” Danny said. “It’s going to be a long few hours.”
Steve’s eyes widened. “Few hours?” he asked, sounding completely not thrilled with the prospect.
“At least,” Danny said. “That’s assuming none of the girls trip over their dresses getting out of the limo.”
“Is it too late to quit?” Steve asked.
Danny nodded. “Yes. So drink that water and let’s get started getting this over with.”
Steve gave him a smile as he uncapped the water. Danny watched until he finished the bottle and handed it back. “Good. I’ll have more waiting off to the side between takes if you need it.”
Danny turned to walk away, but Steve grabbed his arm, pulling him back. “Hang on,” Steve said, as Danny turned back around. “Is this what wrangling looks like?”
“Yeah. Sucks, doesn’t it?”
Steve shrugged, his hand still warm on Danny’s arm. “I don’t know. Kinda depends on who the wrangler is.”
Danny swallowed, his eyes dropping automatically to Steve’s mouth for a second before he caught himself. “Guess you’re lucky you got me, then, huh?”
“It certainly is the best thing that’s happened since I signed on to the show, yeah.”
Danny swallowed again, matching Steve’s smile with one of his own. “Glad to hear it. Now go get ‘em, Stud.”
“Just because I like you doesn’t mean I won’t shoot you.”
“Here,” Gil said, thrusting a bunch of papers into Danny’s hands.
Danny frowned down at them. “What are these?”
“The name of each contestant with her picture.” Gil nodded over his shoulder, where Steve was mingling with the contestants in the arrival cocktail party. “Make sure he studies them. We’ve had to do five retakes because he got the names wrong.”
Funny, Steve hadn’t seemed like he was the type to not be able to remember names and faces. Unless, of course, he just didn’t care enough to bother. Danny stood around on the sidelines, out of camera view, watching as Steve missed two more names before Gil called for a break.
Several other producers herded the girls off to one side as Danny took Steve into the next room. “You know,” Danny said mildly, as Steve downed the bottle of water Danny handed him, “you don’t seem like someone with a faulty memory.”
Steve rolled his eyes as he finished the water, handing the bottle back to Danny. “Half of them look exactly alike,” Steve complained. “And I’d like you to try to remember which blonde is Candy, Mandy or Sandy.”
“We don’t even have a Sandy on the show,” Danny said.
Danny held up the stack of papers. “Well, your inability to remember them has already earned you homework,” Danny said. “And this night is going to go on and on until you get it right. So, unless you’re really enjoying yourself and would like to do this all night, I suggest you use some of that intense focus that Navy SEALs are supposed to have and realize that the only way out is through getting the names right every time.”
Steve sighed, looking for a moment like he wanted to argue, but then he nodded. “You’re right.”
“Great, can you put that in writing so I can remind you of that when you argue, as I’m sure you’re going to do?”
“I can still shoot you.”
“Yeah, but then you’d have to get your own water.”
Steve rolled his eyes and shook his head, but he was smiling as he went back into the other room.
It was 3 a.m. before they finished shooting the cocktail party, and Danny was about to fall asleep standing right where he was. He kept a dutiful eye on Steve, though, watching as Steve didn’t miss a single name after their talk.
When they called it a wrap, several of the girls came up to hug Steve before being herded off to the other side of the house to their rooms. Steve smiled after them until they were gone, then dropped the pretense, turning to Danny. “Can I sleep now?”
Danny gave Gil a quick glance, and at his nod, said, “Yes. Come on. I’ll walk you up.”
“What,” Steve said as they started up the stairs, “afraid I’ll go after the girls? Or just that I’ll fall up the stairs?”
“More afraid the girls will slip out and come after you.”
Steve looked startled. “Seriously? Does that happen?”
Danny shrugged as the turned the corner on the landing. “One time on Enchanted a girl found a secret passageway the producers didn’t even know existed that led into the Prince’s room. Next thing you know, she’s naked in his bed and he’s yelling for the producers, who, of course, ran in with cameras.”
“Um....sure you don’t want to sleep in my room, just in case?”
The tone that went with the words suggested they’d be doing more than sleeping, and Danny would, in fact, love to sleep in Steve’s room. In his bed. Naked. But that wasn’t going to keep him his job, either the cover job with the show or the one with HPD that allowed him to see Grace.
Still, he wasn’t letting Steve get away with all the innuendo.
“That depends,” Danny asked, as they reached Steve’s door. “Would I be clothed or naked?”
Steve’s mouth dropped open just a fraction, and it took him a second before he focused again. “I don’t know,” he said, after a moment. “I have a feeling the Paradise Suite probably has some interesting costumes hidden away.”
Danny let out a mock sigh to cover how part of him wanted to go find out right now, and drag Steve with him. Especially since the Paradise Suite was notorious for its lack of cameras. “Goodnight, Steven,” Danny said, pushing Steve’s bedroom door open.
“Spoilsport,” Steve said, as he stepped through the door. He had a small, real smile in place when he turned around, though. “Goodnight,” he said, before he closed the door in Danny’s face.
Danny was up just after seven, despite the crew being given a late day after the 3 a.m. wrap. He didn’t care that he’d had four hours of sleep, because Grace was supposed to call. He’d give up all kinds of sleep to talk to her.
He went down to the kitchen, one separate from the one the girls used on the other side of the house, to find it empty. He’d just poured himself some cereal when his phone chirped, Grace’s picture on the screen. Danny swiped the screen, and Grace herself appeared, holding her phone up to video chat with him. “Danno!”
“Hey, Monkey,” Danny said, sitting on a stool at the island to pour milk on his cereal. “How’s your morning?”
“I have to go to school,” she said with an exaggerated frown.
“You have to go to school most mornings.”
“Yeah, but I should get a week off because you’re here.”
Danny would’ve sworn the sun just flooded the room. “I would love that,” he said. “But you have to go to school. And I have to work.”
“Work is stupid.”
“Yes, but work pays for things like food and Hello Kitty backpacks.”
“I don’t like Hello Kitty backpacks anymore.”
“Who says I was talking about you?”
Grace’s giggle never failed to make him happy. “Hey,” she said, looking over his shoulder, “is that the guy you’re protecting?”
Shit. Danny looked behind him to see Steve standing there in cargo pants and a t-shirt, looking mouthwateringly good for someone who’d had so little sleep. “Yeah. Which means I have to go.”
“Don’t go on my account,” Steve said, peering over Danny’s shoulder at the phone. “Hi there!”
There was absolutely no way this could end well. “Grace,” Danny said, giving into the inevitable, “this is Steve.”
“Hi, Steve! Is Danno protecting you?”
“Every chance he gets,” Steve said, shooting Danny a glance.
“Okay. Time to go to work,” Danny said, elbowing Steve out of the way before this got out of hand. He wasn’t so worried about her seeing Steve, or he’d have taken the call in his room. One way or another this case would be over before the episodes aired. But he didn’t want her seeing any more than she had to, either. “Gracie, have a great day at school.”
“I will. Love you, Danno!”
“Love you, too, Monkey.”
Danny hung up the phone and stuffed it in his pocket, focusing on eating his cereal for a minute before he gave in and met Steve’s inquisitive gaze. “What?”
Danny had gotten half a day with Grace upon arriving in Hawaii, and he’d told Grace that he had a job protecting someone, so of course that was the idea she’d had when she saw Steve. “Yeah, she, uh…she has this idea that I’m some sort of knight in shining armor, and that I’m protecting people every day, so….”
Which wasn’t far off the truth—she’d always thought that Danny’s job as a policeman was the same thing as a knight.
“Well, you did say you needed to protect me from the contestants,” Steve said.
Danny went back to his cereal, but he could still feel that gaze on him. “What?” he asked, after a moment.
“It’s her nickname for me,” Danny said.
“Ah.” Steve’s grin meant trouble, Danny knew it. “Got it.”
Danny finished his cereal. “Got what?”
Yeah, right. “Okay.” Danny washed out his bowl and left it in the sink. “I’m going to go change.”
“For a full day of protecting me?”
“Yeah, from yourself.”
Steve laughed. “Whatever you say, Danno.”
“You know I could shoot you, too, right?”
“Yeah, but you only shoot with cameras.”
“He spent five minutes with me at the cocktail party. I know I’m getting a lei.”
“Yeah, but he came up to me. You had to hunt him down.”
Danny rolled his eyes at the overheard conversation as he walked by two of the contestants, resisting the urge to tell them they were both going home before this was over, and not with a fiancé.
They’d have their fairy tale bubbles burst soon enough.
Once the girls were herded outside, Danny found Steve in the hallway, looking through the living room and out onto the patio—lanai, Danny reminded himself, he’d gotten told three times already that day that it wasn’t a patio. “You used to hunt down terrorists,” Danny said as he walked up. “I can’t imagine those girls are as scary as you seem to think right now.”
“Yeah,” Steve said, still watching them, “but at least when I was facing the terrorists it was with a gun.”
“Sorry, that’s a really different kind of show,” Danny said, giving him a grin. “You ready for this?”
Steve took a deep breath. “Yeah.”
“You sure? Not gonna screw up the names?”
“Nope. I know who I’m calling up. I won’t screw up.”
“Good.” Danny nudged him towards the living room. “Then let’s go, Stud.”
“Whatever you say, Danno.”
“There is one lei left,” Cameron was saying to the camera. “Steve, who do you want to give the last lei to?”
Danny watched as Steve pretended like he didn’t know whose name he was going to say, like it was still a difficult decision, instead of one he’d made before they ever came down the stairs. Danny had sat with him on the bed that afternoon and looked through the papers Gil had given him the night before, helping Steve decide who to keep and trying not to think about Steve and the bed in the same sentence.
“Sierra,” Steve said, “will you stay in paradise with me a little longer?”
Sierra crossed the lanai to stand in front of Steve. He picked up the last lei and placed it over her head. “Thank you,” she said, her eyes shining as she gave Steve a hug.
Seriously, how did they all buy into this crap? Danny shifted on his feet, waiting for the girls who hadn’t received a lei to say their goodbyes and then, finally, for Gil to call cut.
“Good job getting him to learn the names,” Gil said in Danny’s ear. He handed Danny a sheet of paper. “Here’s the list of questions for the pickups for Steve. Set’s already up in the sitting room at the front of the house.”
Danny nodded as Gil hurried off to get with other producers. Some would be filming the girls leaving, others would be doing pickups with the ones who’d gotten leis. Apparently Danny got Steve all to himself.
“Hey,” Danny said, stepping up next to Steve after the last girl had left.
Steve turned to him, eyes tired. “We done for the night?”
“Not yet, sorry.” Danny held up the papers. “True confessions time.”
Steve huffed out a laugh. “That could take a while.”
“Lucky for you there are specific questions.” Danny nudged him with his shoulder. “Come on, set’s already up.”
Steve settled onto the sofa that had been lit for the interview that would only be shown from one side. Danny’s off-screen questions wouldn’t be seen or heard on the actual broadcast. Steve was clearly in get it done mode, sailing through the questions with more ease than Danny had expected, given how exhausted he’d looked after the lei ceremony.
“Last question,” Danny said, looking at the paper. “Based on what you know so far, is there anyone you think you could make a real connection with?”
Steve thought about it for a moment, eyes holding Danny’s for a beat before Steve answered. “I’d say there’s a definite connection in the house,” Steve said, with just a hint of a smile. “Time will tell if it’s something that could go the distance.”
Danny waited a few seconds before calling cut. Steve’s eyes were on his again when Danny looked up, bright and warm for all the tiredness in them. Danny couldn’t help but smile back, even as he wondered how the hell they were going to get out of this unscathed.
“Seriously?” Steve said, grabbing some disgusting looking green gloopy stuff from the fridge. “Hula lessons?”
Danny took a bite of his cereal as he nodded. “Got a problem with that?” he asked, after he swallowed,
“No, I just…a couple of those girls would barely survive on a club dance floor.”
Danny raised an eyebrow. “You know them that well already?”
“No, but…it’s my job to be able to assess people,” he said, after a moment. “Or it was,” he added, shoulders slumping just a little.
Danny watched, ignoring the queasy feeling in his stomach as Steve drank half the green stuff in one go. “Do you miss it?” Danny asked.
“Being a SEAL.”
Steve put the glass down and took the stool opposite Danny, worrying at his lower lip. “I miss the challenge,” Steve said eventually. “And being part of a team with common training and a shared goal.” He waved a hand towards the rest of the house. “This place, those girls…it’s every man for himself—or woman, in this case. It goes against everything I’ve trained for, worked for all those years. It’s…an adjustment.”
“Your dad must mean a lot to you.”
“He does.” The emotion in Steve’s voice was clear. “I know I’m here for the right reasons,” he said. “It’s just that sometimes I have to remind myself of them. Well,” he said, shrugging a little, “a lot of the time I have to remind myself of them.”
Which was something Danny could use to help when Steve was getting annoyed. “I’ll be sure to remind you of that.”
“You might want to make a sign,” Steve said, picking up his glass again. “I think you’ll lose your voice otherwise.”
Danny tried to hang out with the crew as much as he could when Steve didn’t need him, and he’d made a few friends, though he was no closer to figuring out who might be involved in a drug ring yet. However, on the group date, the majority of the male crew members—and a few of the females—were enjoying the hula lessons entirely too much.
Danny could only take so much of the conversation, which alternated between who had the best boobs for a bikini top and which one was most likely the best in bed from how she moved her hips. Throw in the occasional mean-spirited mocking for lack of coordination, and Danny found himself moving further away until he was watching from a distance.
Which had its benefits—he didn’t have to listen to Steve flirting with the contestants. For all that Steve hated doing this, he was doing a hell of a job of hiding it with the girls. It begged the question of just what kinds of missions Steve had gone on while in the Navy.
Danny moved back in as they took a break, Steve zeroing in on him fast enough that he clearly had known exactly where Danny was, even though Danny could’ve sworn Steve hadn’t so much as looked at him.
“Having fun?” Danny asked.
His back to most of the crowd, Steve grimaced. “How much longer?”
Danny shrugged. “So far everything is going smoothly, so hopefully it’ll be relatively quick?”
“Why do you think I’m working so hard to keep it going?”
Danny felt a little better about Steve’s laser focus he’d shown to the girls the past couple of hours, even though he had no right to be annoyed by it in the first place. It was what Steve was there to do, after all. And if he did it well, they both benefited. “Yes, you’re performing like a true stud,” Danny said, giving Steve the most innocent look he could.
Steve’s long suffering sigh was accompanied with a light in his eyes that Danny was doing his best to ignore. He had to focus. He couldn’t get distracted, not yet. Maybe when this was all over they could see where this led.
Of course, that assumed that Steve didn’t hate him for lying. And that he wasn’t married off.
Danny looked up to see Steve frowning at him. “Sorry, what?”
“You were somewhere else there for a minute,” Steve said. “Something wrong?”
Danny shook his head. “Just miss Grace,” he replied, which was true. The sooner he wrapped this up, the sooner he could see her in person again. “I came all the way here but I still don’t get to see her, you know?”
Steve’s hand was warm and solid when it landed on Danny’s shoulder. “Maybe you’ll get to see her sooner than you think?”
Which was what Danny was hoping, but he couldn’t exactly say that—they were scheduled to be there for weeks, and Danny didn’t know if or when he’d get time away, and if he did, if Rachel would let him see Grace on his own schedule. If he seemed optimistic, Steve might get suspicious.
“Not likely,” Danny said. He gave Steve what he hoped was a convincing smile. “But at least there’s video chat.”
Steve’s smile was as dangerous to Danny’s state of mind as the squeeze to his shoulder was. “That’s gotta help, right?”
“It does.” Danny laughed. “I thought it was my job to keep you from letting this place drive you crazy, not the other way around.”
Steve shrugged. “How about we get each other through it and go from there?”
It was as much of a direct discussion about what they both could clearly tell was going on between them as either of them had tried, and Danny had to swallow carefully before settling on honesty for his answer. “I’d like that.”
Steve’s huge grin was worth the admission.
“I swear, Chin,” Danny said into the phone, “I will never again believe the stories that drugs run rampant on Hollywood sets.”
Chin’s laugh didn’t help Danny’s frustration. “You’re not in Hollywood.”
“Apparently, because I haven’t seen so much as one illegal substance so far.” Danny took a deep breath. “We’re sure Johnson’s word is solid?”
“The only way to be sure is to find the drugs,” Chin said. “But my gut says yeah. He just had too much info, and everything else he has given us so far has been right.”
Of course, everything else had been little. There was always the chance he was lying about the bigger stuff trying to trick his way into a deal. Still…they had to follow the leads. “Okay,” Danny said. “Let me see if I can rattle a few trees then.”
Gil’s voice boomed out in stereo, both from where he was standing few feet away and through Danny’s headset. Danny jogged into the house, finding Steve in his favorite hiding spot. The dark corner in the living room had a comfortable chair, a wall to Steve’s back, and a clear view of the lanai through the sheer curtains.
Anyone trained in tactical defense would find it appealing if they were feeling hunted.
“They’re ready for you,” Danny said, as he approached the corner.
Steve nodded at the lanai, where six overly made up women in bright dresses waited with a couple dozen crew. “I can see that from here.”
Danny stopped just in front of the chair. In the dim light, he could just make out Steve’s features. He looked tired. No, exhausted. Which was ridiculous, because Danny had been the one to deliver him to his room every night, and he was the first one to see Steve in the morning, and there were a lot more hours in between than the amount of sleep Danny was getting.
Then again, Danny didn’t have to be on for all those women all the time.
“The sooner you get out there, the sooner it’ll be over,” Danny reminded him.
Steve scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m starting to think it’ll never be over.”
“Well, get out there and send one more girl packing and then you’re down to five…that’s close to being over.” When Steve just stared out the window, Danny perched himself on the arm of the chair. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Steve said, looking up at Danny. “I guess I thought it would be easier than this.”
“Yeah, they don’t really paint it as this much work when they’re trying to get you to sign, do they?”
“It’s not that, it’s just….” Steve shook his head. “It’s nothing,” he said, pushing off the chair and standing up. “Let’s go get it over with.”
He strode off, leaving Danny to wonder what he’d just missed.
Danny watched as Steve placed a lei around the neck of Lexi, girl number five. Lourdes, the only one without a lei, was crying carefully, managing to do so without smudging her eye makeup, as she stood alone, waiting to say her goodbyes.
“I know one thing,” a voice said in Danny’s ear, “if I was losing out on that, I’d be crying a lot harder.”
Danny turned to see Kiana, a production assistant, standing beside him, her eyes on Steve. “I don’t know,” Danny said, rubbing his eyes. “The guy’s kind of a handful.”
She laughed. “Prima donna, is he?”
Steve was the furthest thing from it, but that wouldn’t really sell the line Danny wanted to give Kiana. “I’m not getting a lot of sleep, that’s for sure,” he said. “Red Bull isn’t cutting it anymore.”
“I know what you mean,” Kiana said, eyes darting between Danny and where Steve and Lourdes were saying goodbye, “First week on the job here, I got caught sleeping in the back of one of the trailers.”
“You didn’t get fired?” Danny asked, as Gil called ‘cut’ behind him.
She shook her head. “A guy gave me something to help. Now I can stay up for 20 hours if the shoot goes that long, no problem.”
This was the first promising lead he’d had. “I need to get me some of that miracle—“
Steve’s voice just behind him cut him off. “We’re done shooting.”
He sounded almost as annoyed as Danny felt about losing his chance at a lead, as Kiana gave him a sympathetic smile and hurried off. “Yeah, I understand what cut means,” Danny snapped, as he turned around to face Steve.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt before you got her number.”
One look at Steve’s face, even before he heard Steve’s tone, and Danny felt bad about snapping. “Sorry,” Danny said quickly. “That came out wrong. Besides,” Danny said with a small smile, “you should know better than anyone here that she’s not really my type.”
“Well, you were married to a woman….”
“Yeah, which ended when I realized I wasn’t really into her,” Danny said quietly, looking around to make sure they weren’t overheard. “Or any other women.” Or anyone other than you. But Danny couldn’t exactly say that, even if they’d both been hinting at it.
Steve ducked his head. “Sorry,” he said, glancing up through his lashes at Danny. “I didn’t mean…I’m just really tired. Am I needed for pickups, or can I go to bed?”
Danny glanced at his watch, surprised to find it was after one in the morning. He glanced over at Gil, who was waving papers at him. “Hold on,” Danny said.
He jogged over to Gil, who held out the papers. “Questions for McGarrett’s pickups.”
“Can we do them in the morning?”
Gil gave him a look Danny associated with his first captain, who considered questions a form of insubordination. “Why would we not do it while it’s fresh?”
“Because you pay me to know the guy,” Danny said, “and I’m telling you that we’ll get much better stuff if he has a night to sleep on it. He’s less emotional when he’s tired, but he’s always much more emotional about the ceremony the morning after.
It wasn’t strictly true—he’d seen Steve power through some pickups like a champ when he looked about ready to fall over seconds before the camera went on, and Steve had already forgotten the names of a few of the girls he’d sent home by the next morning.
But Steve really looked wiped tonight, and Danny wanted to get the guy off to his room. Well, he wanted to get the guy off to his room for a lot of reasons, but none of the others mattered in the short term.
“If you think we’ll get better stuff,” Gil said, “then morning it is. We can do it at ten, before the afternoon double dates.”
“Got it. Thanks.”
Danny jogged back over to Steve. “I got you out of pickups tonight, but you have to do them at ten tomorrow instead.”
Steve gave Danny the first real smile Danny had seen from him all day. “Thanks,” he said, hand on Danny’s shoulder. “I’ll be fine tomorrow, I promise.”
“I know. Come on.” Danny nudged Steve towards the house, staying silently by his side until Steve closed his bedroom door with a quiet good night.
As much as he wanted to go to bed, Danny made himself go back downstairs in search of Kiana. He found her watching Lourdes’ final interview on the screens in the contestants’ side of the house.
“Hey,” Danny said quietly, as on the screens Lourdes was telling three different cameras at once that she’d been so sure Steve was The One. Danny noticed her mascara was still picture perfect.
Kiana gave him a smile. “Did you get Mr. Demanding all tucked in?”
“Yeah, but I still have a couple of hours of work to do to prep for pickups in the morning. Thought I’d see if you had some of that special Red Bull you were telling me about.”
She looked around before pulling him off to the side. “Talk to Aaron,” she said. “The red haired one in transpo, not the blonde gaffer.”
“Red headed transpo Aaron,” Danny said. “Got it. Thanks—you’re a life saver.”
“No problem. And if you ever find you need to work off some extra energy once he’s fixed you up,” Kiana said, stepping a little closer, “let me know.”
Danny forced a smile. “I just might do that,” he said. “If I’m not taking care of the Stud.”
She laughed, and he took a step back. “Thanks again,” he said, before jogging off.
Danny’s phone alarm went off at seven, making him want to throw it across the room. He’d gone in search of Aaron only to find out he’d gone out for something. Before Danny could plan to watch for him, he’d discovered it was with Gil and three other producers, two of which they’d already ruled out as suspects, and they wouldn’t be back until breakfast.
He’d texted Chin the name to look into and gone to bed around three. But Grace called at 7:30 every morning, and Danny wasn’t about to miss that. So he rolled out of bed and was dressed and waiting in his room—after that first time Steve had walked in on his call, Danny had thought it was better to do them in his room—when she called.
Her calls never failed to make him feel better—not just because she was Grace, because it reminded him why he was here. So he walked into the kitchen smiling, a little surprised to find Steve already there.
“You look more awake this morning,” Danny said, as he reached for the cereal.
“Yeah, sorry,” Steve said. “I didn’t mean to be so….” He shrugged. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before.”
“I’m not surprised.” Danny nodded at the green stuff in Steve’s glass. “If I had to drink that every morning, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to sleep either.”
Steve grinned around the glass as he took a drink. “Don’t knock it until you try it, Danno.”
“Whatever you say, Stud.”
“Only five girls left,” Danny said, just off camera, where Steve could see him, but the camera wouldn’t. “Do you see any special connections forming?”
“I think there might be a special connection forming, yeah,” Steve said, giving Danny a look that made him blush. Really, he’d think someone would’ve picked up on this by now, but he’d heard enough people talking about Steve and different contestants that he’d realized they were all clueless.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Kiley,” Danny said, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. Not that he had a problem with that. No. Not at all. He wasn’t jealous. It was Steve’s job to end up with one of these girls, and Kiley was probably the least objectionable, at least in Danny’s opinion. Steve’s, too, given how much time he spent around her.
Steve shrugged, ducking his head and looking up in that way he had to know was sexy as hell. “Kiley’s a great girl,” Steve said. “She’s smart, and she has a lot to offer.” Steve’s grin made Danny shift uncomfortably in his seat as he added, “And I’m a sucker for blonde hair and blue eyes.”
If he kept this up, even the clueless idiots on this show were going to suspect something. “So is it just Kiley?”
Before Steve could answer, Gil came in, breaking rule one—never interrupt a hot set. “Sorry,” he said, “but we just got a call. Steve, I’m sorry, but your father’s had another heart attack. He’s in the hospital.”
The shock on Steve’s face was like a kick in Danny’s gut, and it took every ounce of self-control he had not to go put his arm around Steve right then and there.
Steve stood up, his eyes finding Danny’s. “I need to go.”
Danny was already nodding when Gil said, “We’re packing up now to take you. We leave in ten minutes.”
“Hey, Frank,” Danny said, catching Gil as he gave final instructions to the crew loading quickly into the van.
“Our guy ready?” Gil asked.
Danny nodded. “Just about. Listen, about the drive—“
“Kiley’s ready to go,” Gil said. “I figure we’ll put them in a sedan and then film when we get to the hospital, after they’ve had time to talk.”
“I think it might be better if I drive McGarrett, and Kiley meets us at the hospital.”
Gil frowned. “Better for who?”
“For the show,” Danny said. “He needs some coaching on a good day. With this…let me have a little time to get him ready before he gets to the hospital, so we can get what we need without him causing any trouble over us shooting. Okay?”
After a moment, Gil nodded. “He’s your guy. If you think that’s what we need to get the right footage, we’ll go with it.”
Danny went back into the house to find Steve coming down the stairs. “Let me guess,” Steve said as he reached Danny, “I get to ride with Kiley to the hospital.”
“That was Gil’s plan,” Danny said. “But I talked him into taking her in one of the crew vans and letting us take the car.”
Steve blinked a few times. “How’d you manage that one?”
“I am very persuasive.” At Steve’s look, Danny shrugged. “I told him he’d get better cooperation from you at the hospital that way.”
“Figures he’d buy that.”
Danny studied Steve’s face carefully. “You okay with this?” Danny asked. “Because if not, I could—“
“No, Danny,” Steve said, his hand landing on Danny’s shoulder, “I’m not letting you push it any further and risk your job that gets you to be here with your daughter just so I don’t have to be on camera while Dad’s….” Steve took a deep breath. “While Dad’s in the hospital.”
“Come on,” Danny said, dislodging Steve’s hand as he turned towards the door. “They should be about ready. We can talk in the car.”
Danny had expected Kiley to be out there to play the supportive wannabe girlfriend, but she was already in the van and the doors were closed when he and Steve got to the drive. Steve went around to the driver’s seat of the sedan, but Danny caught up with him before he could open the door.
“Sorry,” Danny said. “Insurance. You can’t drive—you’re not officially on the insurance policy.”
“It’s not like I’m planning to wreck the car.”
“Nobody ever plans to wreck a car, Steven.”
For a moment it looked like Steve would argue, but then he let go of the door, went around the car, and got in without another word. Danny got into the driver’s seat and started the car, following slowly behind the vans.
“The hospital said he was stable,” Danny said, as they pulled through the outer security gate. “That’s good, right?”
Steve nodded, staring out the windshield, but looking like he wasn’t seeing a single thing. “They told him to avoid stress,” Steve said after a minute. “I know that he probably went back to the office after I started on the show, and he probably pushed himself too hard.” Steve sighed. “I should’ve said no.”
“Okay, a, you couldn’t have seen this coming,” Danny said, having already lined up his arguments. He’d seen this coming a mile away. “And b, didn’t you do this to help his company in the first place?”
“I don’t care about the company,” Steve said. “Not if he….”
Danny put a hand on Steve’s thigh. “Hey. He’s stable. He’s gonna be fine.”
Steve didn’t respond, he just stared out the window. But after a moment, his hand landed on Danny’s and stayed there.
Danny parked the car right behind the vans, jumping out to follow Steve before Gil could get out and tell them to wait. He wasn’t about to make Steve wait to see his father. If Gil wanted the shot of Steve going into the room, he could fake it later.
Steve hurried until he got to the door of his father’s hospital room. Danny saw him pause after his first step inside, before he continued on. By the time Danny got into the room, Steve was at the bed.
Danny stepped up beside Steve to see John McGarrett looking pale, but not much different from the pictures Danny had seen. He was hooked up to a few machines, but nothing looked critical, and the beep of the heart monitor seemed to be relatively steady to Danny’s ears.
His voice was strong, too, as he smiled up at Steve and said, “I told them not to call you.”
“Really, Dad?” Steve said, and Danny could tell he was trying not to be angry. “You didn’t think I should know you…that you were here?”
“It’s not that bad, Steve.”
“Right, not that bad.” The anger was trying to seep in, and Danny could see Steve trying to control it. “Let me guess, you probably didn’t even want to leave the office—where you weren’t supposed to be.”
Danny recognized that look of surprise on John’s face from the times he’d seen it on Steve’s. “How did you know I was at the office?”
“Because I’ve known you my whole life. Where else would you be when you’re supposed to be taking it easy?”
“No. I should never have gone on the show. I’m going to call Mary and get her to come back until it’s over. She can—“
John’s hand covered Steve’s, silencing him. “Son, I will be fine.” John’s voice was soft, careful. “They’re going to put a stent in this afternoon, I’m going to have some carefully supervised rehab with someone to keep me from doing things I’m not supposed to do until I’m ready, and then I’ll be fine for decades.”
Steve’s throat worked, that muscle that Danny had been studiously trying to ignore for weeks almost pulsing until he nodded. “What time are they doing the surgery?”
“Around two. They’re going to come get me shortly for prep.”
Gil’s voice sounded from the door. “Danny.”
Danny turned, guiding Gil out of the room to leave Steve and John alone for a minute. “Everything set?” Danny asked, doing his best to play the dutiful producer.
“Rita’s getting the hospital to sign the consent forms for filming now.” Gil sounded annoyed that something as unimportant as a building full of sick people was slowing down his show. “We should be able to shoot in a few minutes. How’s our guy holding up?”
“Fine,” Danny said, because that’s what Steve would want anyone else to believe. Hell, he probably wanted Danny to believe it, but Danny could see the pressure building. He hoped the shooting started soon so that Steve could get it out of the way before he cracked.
“Good. Let’s get things set up out here so we’re ready the moment they sign the forms.”
Danny was distracted by the setup, surprised to realize that this part of his cover was becoming second nature. He worked with the crew to get lights in a few strategic dark spots, feeling a bit like a sleeze when they picked specific chairs for Steve and Kiley to have their ‘spontaneous private chat’ in after they went to see John.
When Rita showed up with the paperwork all in order, Danny went back into the hospital room. Steve spared him a glance this time, leaning in a little, his arm brushing Danny’s. “Dad,” Steve said, “this is Danny Williams, one of the producers on the show.”
“Nice to meet you,” Danny said, “though I’d rather it have been under better circumstances.”
John eyed him for a moment before nodding. “Nice to meet you, too,” he said, something in his voice that Danny couldn’t figure out.
“The show wants to shoot my visit with one of the contestants,” Steve said. “I don’t know that I’d be here otherwise, so, um….”
“It’s fine,” John said, that warmth in his voice making Steve stand up a little straighter, even as his shoulders relaxed. “Do what you need to do.”
It was an odd choice of words, but Danny pushed that aside as he left the room. Steve joined them a moment later, Kiley appearing out of nowhere—the bathroom, Danny figured, judging by the flawless makeup. Danny stood back, a silent observer as Gil told Steve and Kiley exactly where he wanted them to go and what he wanted them to do and say.
They filmed Steve and Kiley walking up to the room, Kiley taking Steve’s hand to walk inside, and Steve introducing Kiley to his father. It was all very dramatic and fit the script perfectly, and Danny thought Steve in particular deserved an Emmy for his acting. No one else would notice the strain around his mouth, the way his eyes didn’t quite match his words and actions, not unless they knew him well enough to see his tells.
John could tell—Danny saw how carefully he watched Steve, as if Steve was the one in the hospital bed. The conversation they’d had about Steve going on this show must have been something, if John was this concerned, and yet this willing to let the show into his hospital room just a couple of hours before surgery.
When they were done filming in the room, Gil directed Steve and Kiley to the absolutely spontaneous staged seats for a conversation. Danny hung back in the room, reluctant to watch that little scene play out.
“Steve seems different,” John said.
Danny looked around, realizing only then that they were alone in the room, and that John was talking to him. “He’s not exactly a natural at this,” Danny said, covering the few steps between where he stood and the bed.
“No, he’s much more comfortable with terrorists than TV cameras,” John said, humor lacing his tone.
Danny laughed. “I can see that,” he said. “But he’s doing a good job, all things considered. He believes in what he’s doing, in his reason for doing it. So he’s giving his best effort.”
John’s frown seemed out of place for those words. “Do you—I mean, did he tell you why he’s doing this?”
“Not in so many words. He hinted, and I mostly worked it out,” Danny said. “I know your company has some PR issues, and going on that show, falling in love in front of the world…it’s not the first time someone’s done it for PR.”
The frown deepened. “He’s not the type to fall in love so easy, so I wasn’t expecting him to develop feelings for someone when he went on the show.”
“Isn’t that what’s in the brochure?” Danny teased, before he sobered. “Seriously,” he said, trying not to reveal anything, while wanting to put John at ease, “the show is…well, let’s just say that the show said Kiley was coming and Gil told both of them what to say, what to do, where to stand, all of that. So it wasn’t Steve’s overwhelming desire to introduce the love of his life to his father or anything.”
Gil’s loud ‘Cut!’ from the hallway cut John off. “Sorry,” Danny said, wincing. “You were saying?”
John shook his head. “Nothing. Does that mean Steve is done?”
“Let me go check.”
Danny turned to leave, almost running into Steve just outside the door. “Done shooting?”
Steve gave him a tight nod. “How’s Dad?”
“Fine, considering.” Danny put his hand on Steve’s arm. “But he won’t be if you go in there looking like they just pulled six of your teeth. He’s worried about you. Don’t give him any more reason to be.”
Steve took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You’re right. Sorry.” His mouth softened into a hint of a smile. “And thank you.”
It’s my job. The words were on the tip of Danny’s tongue, but he couldn’t say it. Didn’t want to trivialize being there for Steve during this. “You’re welcome,” he said instead. “Now go in there and make him realize you’re just fine before he has a very routine, very non-life-threatening procedure.”
Steve brushed past him, and Danny missed the warmth of him standing so close. He went out into the waiting area, finding Gil standing there, talking with Rita as the crew started tearing down.
“We’re not heading back before the surgery, are we?”
“We are,” Gil said. “It’s not good to let any of the girls be out for too long—it messes with the house dynamic.”
Seriously, there weren’t enough showers in the world for Danny to feel clean again after being involved in this fucked up show, no matter how noble his cause. “That would be a shame,” he said.
As expected, his sarcasm went unnoticed. “I don’t want Steve distracted, though,” Gil said. “So stay here with him until his dad’s through surgery and he knows he’s okay, then drive him back?”
Gil smiled as if Danny had just saved him, instead of Danny getting a gift. “You’re a life saver,” Gil said. “I’m going to head back with Kiley and a few of the others now. The crew will leave when they’re done packing up the equipment. Call if there are any changes or we need to come back.”
“You got it.”
Kiley went in to say goodbye to Steve and his father, playing the supportive hopeful even without the cameras, all for Steve’s benefit. Danny stayed at the door, watching, until Gil, Kiley, and the rest of the first van got on the elevator and disappeared behind the doors.
“So we look up on the roof,” John says, laughter in his voice and eyes as he takes in Steve’s pink face, “and there’s Steve, in his Superman pajamas, about to jump.”
Danny laughed, bumping his shoulder with Steve’s. They’d been sitting in the two guest chairs for over an hour, Danny mostly listening as the two McGarrett men talked. “Please tell me he didn’t.”
“Broke his arm in two places,” John said.
Danny laughed harder. He looked at Steve, who, despite the blush, was as relaxed and open as Danny had seen him. It was a side Danny would give his right arm to see more often, but he got why Steve couldn’t exactly be anything other than highly guarded in the house. “Let me guess,” Danny asked Steve, “hearing that story was what made the SEALs said ‘you’re hired,’ right?”
Steve rolled his eyes, but they were still shining with amusement as he said, “No, that was the story that got me promoted.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Danny had heard a lot of stories about what SEALs could do, and he didn’t doubt that was just the tip of the iceberg.
A noise at the door had them all turning to see a nurse coming in. “Mr. McGarrett,” she said, “we’re ready to take you down to prep for surgery.”
Danny felt Steve stiffen beside him, even with an inch of space between them. It was the only outward sign of concern, though, as Steve rose, Danny following suit. “Dad,” Steve said, putting his hand on the one John didn’t have an IV in.
John turned his hand around to grasp Steve’s. “I’ll be back before you know it,” John said.
“Yeah.” Steve’s smile was thin, but real. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Danny stood close by Steve in the corner as a couple of people transferred John to a gurney. Once he was secured, Steve followed the gurney out, Danny close behind. He saw the crew still slowly packing up in between checking their phones, clearly taking their time to avoid going back to the house, but thankfully with no cameras out.
The staff pushing the bed went the other direction, though, and Danny forgot about the crew, focusing on Steve, shoulders stiff and unyielding as he followed the gurney, as if it was a parade march and he was being judged.
Danny moved closer, their arms brushing until he felt the tension slipping out just a little. By the time they reached the doors where they had to stopped, he was nowhere near relaxed, but Danny was less worried he’d strain something.
John smiled at Steve, and Steve smiled back, like they had some silent language, before John disappeared with the staff through the doors. When the doors closed, Steve took in a long breath, letting it out slowly, not meeting Danny’s eyes. “I, uh…gimme a minute,” Steve said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at the men’s room.
He darted inside, and Danny counted to ten before he ran out of patience and followed Steve into the bathroom. Steve was leaning on the sink, looking down into it as if it held some answers for him, but he turned his head slowly when Danny just stood there.
“I just need a minute before I go back out there and get twenty questions,” Steve said, nodding towards the door. “I’m sure one of them has pulled a camera back out by now.”
So Steve hadn’t missed the crew loitering around either. “Nope,” Danny said, because he was a fucking producer, and he would tell them to put it away if they’d been so stupid. “They’re just taking their time—they were supposed to be gone already. Trust me, I’m not letting them turn a camera on you right now.”
Steve stood up, throat working the way it had when he’d first seen John in the hospital bed. “I do,” Steve said, pausing to clear his throat. “Trust you, I mean.”
Which made Danny feel like shit. Even if he had no choice but to lie to Steve, it didn’t mean he had to like it. “I would hope so.”
“Danny….” Steve took a few steps forward, his eyes trained on Danny’s mouth, making Danny’s heart feel like it was going to beat a hole right through his chest.
He waited for whatever Steve was going to say next, but words never came. Instead, Steve leaned in, capturing Danny’s lips as his hand went around to cup the back of Danny’s head. The kiss was soft at first, tentative in a way that was hard to associate with Steve. Danny leaned in, arms going around Steve’s back, his mouth opening into the kiss.
Steve delved deeper, both hands buried in Danny’s hair as Steve mapped out the terrain of Danny’s mouth like he was going to have to draw it from memory later. A part of Danny’s brain laughed hysterically at the idea, even as another part was cowering in the corner, already imagining the fallout of all this, and it was only a kiss.
Though, to be fair, it was a fucking amazing kiss.
Steve pulled back eventually, hands still in Danny’s hair, Steve’s breath hot on Danny’s mouth as his forehead rested against Danny’s. “I’m sorry,” Steve breathed out, “I shouldn’t…but I just needed….”
He straightened, removing his hands from Danny and stepping back, effectively removing Danny’s hands from him. “I’m sorry,” he said, with one last heated look before he turned and all but ran out the door.
After a stunned moment where Danny just stood there, hands still in the air where they’d been on Steve’s waist seconds before, Danny gathered his brain, smoothed his hair back, and went out into the hall. There was no sign of Steve, so Danny went back towards the room.
The crew looked like they were finally almost done packing up. “Did McGarrett come through here?” Danny asked.
One of the pointed down another hallway. “He went that way.”
“Thanks. Are you guys almost done?”
“Yeah, we’re just waiting for Aaron to come back—he has the keys.”
“Good. Get back to the house—I’m sure they need you.”
They probably didn’t, but Danny wanted them gone, preferably before he found Steve. He rounded the corner, still no sign of tall, dark and annoying, but he caught a flash of red out of the corner of his eye and turned his head just in time to see Aaron ducking into a room that Danny could see said “STAFF ONLY” in bright red letters. And looked like it definitely should’ve been locked.
Danny got to the door in time to keep it cracked open just enough to hear Aaron saying, “—Tuesday night.” From the pause that followed, Danny assumed Aaron was on the phone. “I’ll need fifty thousand. Cash,” Aaron said, then after another pause, “Yeah, two. Got it. See you then.”
Shit. Danny had to get Chin on the phone, but he also needed to see what other information he might be able to get from Aaron. Maybe if he caught him in that room—which, now that he was there, he could see was the pharmacy—Aaron would slip up with some other information, something Danny could use without blowing his cover.
No, Chin first. Danny stepped quietly around the corner, eyes still on the pharmacy door. He pulled out his cell and punched the button for Chin’s number. It went to voicemail on the first ring. “Hey, it’s Danny. Listen, Aaron is definitely involved in something. I just heard him making plans for a transaction on Tuesday, but I’m not sure what it was.” He gave Chin the details he’d heard and hung up.
He’d barely stuck his phone back in his pocket when a hand grabbed Danny from behind, dragging him across the hall and into another room. The door closed, and Danny was spun around, his back against the door.
He looked up to see Steve’s face, eyes cold and flat in a way Danny hadn’t seen them before. “Leave Aaron alone,” Steve said.
Danny had been having trouble picturing Steve as a SEAL, but not anymore. That was exactly the kind of cold command he’d expect from one of the country’s elite soldiers.
Though he wouldn’t have expected him to be a criminal. Had been convinced, in fact, that Steve had nothing to do with the drug ring, despite having access to a shipping company.
Apparently his dick had been doing his thinking for him.
“I don’t believe it,” Danny said, willing his body to stop responding to Steve practically pinning him to the door.
“Who are you with?” Steve asked.
“Why, so you can clean up after you get rid of me?”
Steve blinked, his brow furrowing. “What? No, I want to know why we weren’t informed. And I need to let my superiors know who else is working this case.”
We? Superiors? Case? “Wait, what?”
Steve stepped back, his frown deepening. “You didn’t know?”
“Know what? Until about three seconds ago, I thought you were just a guy out for PR on some reality show.”
“Yeah, and I thought you were just a producer.”
Shit. Shit shit shit. “Okay,” Danny said, “let’s start over.” He stuck out his hand. “Detective Danny Williams, on loan to Honolulu PD from Newark.”
Steve blinked at him a few times before taking Danny’s hand. “Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett,” Steve said slowly. “Working with Naval Intelligence.”
“So how, exactly, did a SEAL with Naval Intelligence end up under cover on a reality show?”
“It’s a long story,” Steve said. He scrubbed a hand over his face as he perched on the edge of the desk in what Danny could now see was an office of some kind. “There was a murder—a Naval officer on shore leave—and the gun was tracked back to the dealer. That gun, along with several others the dealer had, all traced back to guns confiscated by the Honolulu Police Department. And, according to records, all still supposedly in HPD’s lockup.”
“How did you trace them back?”
“Let’s just say that the bad guys are not nearly as good at hiding serial numbers as we are at recovering them,” Steve said. “Anyway, either HPD is clueless or involved, so we couldn’t exactly go ask them for help, since we’re pretty sure they would notice the weapons missing if someone wasn’t covering it up. I’m guessing if you’re here, though, they’ve noticed.”
Danny shook his head slowly. “I’m not here about guns. I’m here about drugs.”
“HPD arrested a drug dealer that said his source was inside Forever in Paradise. And that there was a cop on the payroll, which is what kept it under the radar. We think the source on the show might be using the show’s shipping to and from the mainland to smuggle the drugs. I just got turned onto Aaron as the possible source, so I followed him just now and then you accosted me.”
“I did not accost you!” Steve pushed off the desk. “I’ve been tracking Aaron and a couple of the other transpo guys, thinking they were the most likely suspects for shipping guns, and when I saw you I couldn’t be sure if you were going to blow my chances.”
Danny’s eyes widened. “Blow your chances? I happen to be a very good detective, thank you. And, may I remind you, I didn’t know you had chances. I didn’t know you had anything other than the need for some PR for your dad’s company.”
At the mention of his dad, Steve’s intensity dimmed a little, and Danny could’ve kicked himself. At least while he was focused on the case—and at some point soon Danny would actually process that and his brain would catch up with reality—Steve hadn’t been worrying about his dad in surgery.
“Shit, Steve,” Danny said, “sorry. I didn’t mean to….”
Steve waved a hand. “No, it’s okay, I just forgot for a second.”
“Well, it’s been an eventful five minutes or so.”
It was a lousy joke, but Steve smiled nonetheless. “So…I take it you haven’t actually been working in England the last three years?”
Danny shook his head. “Newark PD.”
“So how much of your story was true?”
The guilt Danny still felt about lying was mitigated a bit by the fact that Steve had been lying, too. Or maybe it was that he felt less like Steve would be mad about it now that helped. “Most of it,” Danny said, meeting Steve’s gaze. “I didn’t cheat on Rachel, but we split up because I stopped lying to myself that I was interested in her. Or any woman.”
“That’s rough,” Steve said, sounding like he got it all too well. “So she moved here out of spite?”
“Not really—she fell in love, and her husband got a job here, so, they moved.” Danny studied Steve carefully. “What about you? What’s the real story?”
“Right after we tracked the guns to Honolulu,” Steve said, “Dad had his heart attack. So we put the word out that I’d gone into the Reserves to help out with the company, since it gave me the perfect in to track shipments. That it let me be here while Dad recovered was a bonus,” Steve said with a faint smile. “But then I realized that this show seemed to have some part in it, so….”
He shrugged, and it took Danny a second to even start to process everything. He’d thought the guy was devoted enough for going on the show to help his Dad’s company. Now to find out he was doing to track down weapons…that was some serious dedication.
Enough dedication to fake attraction if it would get him a lead on the guns.
“So, some of your story was real, anyway?”
He could tell Steve saw the exact meaning in the question. For all that Danny prided himself on being enigmatic, especially when he was working—which, technically, he still was—he liked that Steve could see through him so easily.
“Some of my story,” Steve said, moving slowly towards Danny, “is more real than I dare let on.”
Right. Because this thing between them—which was clearly still a thing, even now that the truth was out—would get Steve kicked out of the Navy.
Because of course nothing in Danny’s life could be even remotely easy.
“So…where does that leave us then?” Because Steve had kissed him, and because Danny was selfish enough to want an answer.
Steve was close enough now to reach out, his hand gentle on Danny’s neck, fingertips brushing the ends of Danny’s hair. “It leaves us working on the same case, I think.” Which Danny had already figured out—it was too much of a coincidence that they both traced smuggling back to the show. “And,” Steve continued, “both wanting something that we can’t have right now.”
“Right now. Because first I need to see my father through this surgery, and then we have to go track Aaron and see who else is involved in this mess. And then…we can see where that leaves us.”
Which would be nowhere if Steve was going to go back to active duty after this was over. Danny could do the math. But Steve was right. He had other things to focus on right now—they both did. “Right.” Danny nodded. “We should go see what—“
Danny met Steve’s eyes. “Hm?”
“I just....” Steve shook his head and leaned in, capturing Danny’s mouth in a gentle kiss so different from the first one that Danny didn’t even know how to react.
Steve lifted his head and gave Danny a smile, like that had settled something. It hadn’t, it had left Danny more confused than before, but he wasn’t about to ask. So he smiled back. “Come on,” Danny said, nodding towards the door. “Let’s talk while we wait for your dad to get out of surgery.”
The film crew was gone when Steve and Danny walked back through the waiting area. Danny waited until they were back in Steve’s dad’s room, the door closed, before asking, “So how much have you uncovered about Aaron?”
“Not a lot.” Steve moved the chair he’d been sitting in away from the bed before taking a seat, as if he didn’t want the reminder of why they were sitting there and not in the Forever house. “We ruled out the other transpo guys, so he was our main focus, which is why I followed him earlier. Then I saw you, so I hung back to see what was going on, and….”
Danny moved his seat as well, placing it close to Steve’s, the chair tilted just enough that Danny’s knee brushed Steve’s when he sat down. “I left a message for my HPD contact,” Danny said. “He should be calling me back anytime. I’d suggest he come over here, but that might be a little dangerous, just in case.”
“Yeah, we don’t want to risk it.” Steve shifted, his knee brushing Danny’s again. “Are you sure you can trust him?”
“As sure as I can be. He’s on the case because someone at HPD trusts him, at least.” Danny leaned back. “Actually, you’re in a better position to answer that, since apparently you knew him well enough to break all his high school football records.”
Steve blinked. “Chin Ho Kelly?” At Danny’s nod, Steve’s mouth smoothed into a smile. “Chin was always a good guy.”
Danny’s second phone buzzed, the display showing the unidentified caller that Danny knew was Chin’s phone just for them to connect. “Manny’s Pizza,” Danny said as he answered, his standard response in case anyone other than Chin was on the other end of the line.
“Hey, Danny,” Chin said. “Just got your message.”
“Glad you called back.” Danny looked at Steve, who nodded. “We’ve had a few developments.”
He told Chin about Steve, and about the Navy’s gun trafficking investigation. When he finished, there was a long silence on the other end before Chin said, summing things up succinctly, “Damn.”
“Here,” Danny said, putting the phone on speaker and holding it out. He listened while Steve and Chin did some weird greeting in something that slightly resembled English, but made no sense at all, before Chin got down to business.
“Are we gonna have a territorial issue here?” Chin asked.
“Not as far as I’m concerned,” Steve answered without hesitation. “Technically they’re still separate investigations. But since we’re looking at the same suspects, there’s no reason why Danny and I can’t pool our resources. If they’re linked, then we can worry about jurisdiction down the line.”
They’d already pretty much figured out the cases were linked, but Danny got it. If Steve maintained they weren’t sure about that, neither side would have a solid reason to take over. And as Danny had no illusions that the Navy would bow out in favor of local police, he was fine with that.
Whatever kept him there working that case until it was done was fine with him.
“Should I meet up with someone from your team?” Chin asked.
Steve’s lips thinned, but a few seconds later, he said, “Probably. I’ll put you in touch with Commander Roark later today.”
“Sounds good. Hey, I heard about your dad. How’s he doing?”
Danny watched Steve’s face closely, but he gave away nothing as he said, “He’s in surgery. But they expect him to be fine.”
“I’m thinking about him,” Chin said. “He’s a great guy.”
Steve nodded. “Thanks.”
“Chin,” Danny said, “let us know what you find out about Aaron?”
“I’m on it. I’ll contact you as soon as I have something.”
“Thanks.” Danny ended the call, stuffing the phone back into his pocket before looking at Steve. “Do you need to call your Commander?”
Steve shook his head. “It can wait a little while,” he said, settling back into his chair.
“Really? The military doesn’t court martial you for not reporting something like this immediately?”
That earned Danny a smile. “I think I can get a pass for at least waiting until I know Dad’s okay,” Steve said.
“In that case,” Danny leaned into the corner of his chair a little more, resting his elbow on the arm, “tell me a little about all those high school football records.”
“And then the coach came in,” Steve said, “and saw Hooper trying to get out of the locker and the rest of us cheering him on.”
Danny laughed. “What did the coach do?”
“He told us we all had five minutes to be on the field, Hooper included, turned around, and left.”
“How did you get him out?”
“Lotion has a lot of uses,” Steve said with a wink.
Danny laughed harder. “You made that up,” he said, once he caught his breath.
Steve shook his head. “All true, I swear,” he said. “But you played baseball, right?” He raised an eyebrow. “Or was that not true?”
It took Danny a second to remember having shared that early on. “Yeah, I played in high school and college. But we never stuffed anyone in a locker.”
Steve held up both hands. “We didn’t stuff him in the locker! He went of his own accord!”
“And who bet him he couldn’t get himself in there?”
Steve dropped his hands, giving Danny his most innocent look. “Funny, I can’t remember that part….”
Danny rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. “Yeah, right.”
The door opened, and Steve stood up, Danny following suit. The nurse came in, her smile somewhat reassuring, even before she said, “Your father’s through surgery.”
“How is he?” Steve asked.
“The doctor will be in to talk to you in a few minutes,” she said, “but it was routine. He’s in recovery, and should be fine.”
Danny felt Steve’s shoulder pressed against his, a solid, warm weight as Danny looked up to answer Steve’s smile with one of his own.
By the time Danny got a text from Gil asking for an update, Steve had contacted his commander for a brief call, and John McGarrett was back in his room. Danny told Gil only that John was out of surgery--the less Gil knew the, less he’d be pushing them to get back. Two hours and five texts later, though, Danny was finding it harder to make excuses, no matter how much he wanted to let Steve have time with his dad.
Still, if they got back and got the case solved quickly, Steve could spend more time with his dad.
And Danny might never see him again.
He was trying not to think about that as he reluctantly told Gil they would be heading back soon. “I hate to break this up,” Danny said, pushing himself up out of his chair, “but we should be going.”
Danny steeled himself against Steve’s disappointment, but he’d somehow underestimated Steve’s ingrained need to put duty first. “Right,” Steve said as he stood. “Back to reality.”
Biting back a comment about how reality shows were nothing like actual reality, Danny said goodbye to John before leaving the room for the McGarretts to have a private goodbye. He’d fielded one more text from Gil, asking for an ETA, when Steve came out of the room, closing the door behind him.
“Ready?” Danny asked.
Steve nodded. “Let’s go.”
Steve was quiet as they pulled out onto the main road, staring out the window as if there was going to be a quiz on the scenery. Danny gave it a few minutes before he finally said, “Sorry we had to leave.”
“I’m sorry we had to go. It would’ve been nice to stay, but…”
“Duty calls,” Steve said with a shrug. “Story of my life.”
Danny didn’t doubt it. “I know a little something about that.”
Steve finally looked Danny’s way. “Duty first, right?”
“Yup.” Danny sighed. “Honestly, even if I hadn’t figured out my…preferences, I don’t think my marriage would have survived my job.”
“Your ex couldn’t deal with the danger?”
Danny shook his head. “Nope. And she could never understand why the job came first most of the time.”
“Most people don’t understand that you can’t just turn it off,” Steve said.
But Steve did, that much was clear. Though Danny had pretty much guessed that by now. Steve was surprisingly easy to read—even more so now that Danny knew the truth. And right now, Danny could tell Steve needed to focus on the mission to avoid thinking about his father. “Speaking of which,” Danny said, “why don’t you tell me a little bit more about the guns?”
By the time they got back to the house, they’d caught each other up on their individual investigations. “I have copies of the shipping logs in my room,” Steve said as they pulled into the parking area. “You should have a look, see if any dates track on shipments HPD knows about.”
Danny put the car in park and turned off the ignition. “If we’re right,” he said, “there could be a lot more links than we suspected.”
“It’s a damn good cover,” Steve said. “Production companies who shoot here ship stuff back and forth to L.A. like it’s interoffice mail. And people are always flying over from the mainland.”
“Which means adding LAPD to our coordination at some point, most likely.”
“Not until we know who we can trust there,” Steve said. “If they have someone on the inside at HPD, chances are there’s someone on the inside in L.A., too.”
Because of course nothing could be easy. “Good point. We wait.” Danny sighed. “I guess we should get in there before Gil comes looking for us.”
“Yeah.” Steve licked his lips, his eyes meeting Danny’s. “Danny….”
Steve licked his lips again, then gave a little shake of his head. “My dad said to thank you for making sure I got to the hospital.”
Which wasn’t what he’d been about to say, but Danny wasn’t about to push after the day they’d had. “Tell your dad he’s welcome.” Danny frowned. “I just realized, you don’t have a phone. I can talk to Gil about it, make sure you can call him and check in.”
Steve’s face softened. “I—that would be good.”
They had to get out of the car now, before that face made Danny do something he shouldn’t even be contemplating this close to the house. “Come on,” Danny said, forcing himself to get out of the car. “Back to reality,” he said, echoing Steve’s words from earlier.
Steve snorted. “Have you ever noticed ‘reality TV’ is the least real thing in existence?”
At least one of them didn’t have the filter to keep from saying it. “I might have noticed that, yes,” Danny said. He nudged Steve’s arm with his own. “Let’s go back to fake reality, then?”
“Lead the way.”
Kiley was waiting in the foyer, Gil and several cameras right behind her. Danny quickly got out of the way so he wasn’t in the shot as the cameras caught her forcing Steve to tell her everything about the surgery and how his dad was doing.
Danny watched from behind the cameras, noting the lines forming around Steve’s mouth and eyes as he talked about it. Was she really so blind that she didn’t see it was the last thing he felt like talking about? But then, he was lucky she was so blind, or she might’ve caught on to something at the hospital.
No, they were lucky. Because they were in this together now, something Danny hadn’t had time to fully process. One of the many things he hadn’t quite had time to process—like those two kisses.
The word brought Danny back, and he looked up to see Kiley mercifully moving away from Steve. Steve met Danny’s eyes, giving him a tired smile before Danny’s view was blocked by Gil.
“Your boy up for some pickups tonight?” Gil asked.
Danny was surprised at the thoughtfulness, until he remembered he’d told Gil that Steve did better in the mornings. Danny looked at Steve for a moment, who looked tired. However, a later night would potentially give Danny another excuse to track Aaron down for drugs. And less people would be around to see Danny go into Steve’s room to look at those files.
“Yeah,” Danny said finally. “I think he’ll be okay. If it goes south, we can always finish tomorrow.”
“Great.” Gil smiled and clapped Danny on the shoulder before handing a list of questions. “Everything is set up in the living room. Go get me some good TV.”
Good TV out of someone almost losing their father. Right. Sure. “You got it,” Danny said with his best fake smile. “Have we made arrangements for McGarrett to talk to his dad?”
“Not yet—what’s his father’s status?”
“He’s expected to recover, but I know it’ll take some stress off McGarrett and let him focus if he gets to talk to him once or twice. I’m happy to let him use my phone and stand by to make sure no rules are violated.”
“Sounds good,” Gil said. “Now go get some good footage out of all this.”
If it turned out they were wrong in thinking Gil wasn’t guilty, Danny was going to enjoy putting cuffs on him extra tight.
Steve was standing off to the side nearby. Danny headed for him, watching as Steve saw the papers in Danny’s hand and frowned. “We’re not done?” Steve asked, and Danny couldn’t miss the disappointment in his voice.
“Sorry, not just yet.” Danny put a hand on Steve’s bicep, giving it an encouraging squeeze. “We need to get the pickups out of the way.”
“We can’t do them in the morning?”
“Sorry,” Danny said again, hoping Steve would get his meaning when he added, “duty calls.”
Steve took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Okay,” Steve said, his game face sliding into place. “Lead the way.”
Danny kept his hand on Steve’s arm as they went through to the living room until Steve took a seat. Everything was set up, as Gil had promised, which at least saved them some time. Danny watched as makeup and hair fussed over Steve for a minute. When they were done, they ducked back behind the lights and camera, out of sight.
Gil hadn’t given him a lot of questions, which was good, but given the day they’d both had, the last thing Danny wanted to do was go back over it. And he was pretty sure Steve felt the same.
Still…duty called. And if Steve could handle it, given his situation, Dany sure as hell could.
“So,” Danny said, looking at the first question, trying to figure out the least painful way to ease into it. “Unexpected day, huh?”
Steve’s smile was forced. “You could say that, yeah.”
“Can you talk us through what happened?”
Steve sat up a little straighter. “There was a call that my dad had gone back into the hospital,” he said, sounding every bit like the good little soldier he was. “He’d had another heart attack. So we went to the hospital to see him.”
“We?” Danny prompted.
“Kiley went with me for support,” Steve said, and Danny would have bought into every word if he’d been watching on TV. “She was great—she got to meet Dad, and she was just…there.”
He really was good at saying the truth while making it sound like something else, Danny had to hand it to him. “You went into the Reserves and moved back here to spend more time with your dad after his first heart attack, didn’t you?” Danny prompted.
“I went into the Reserves and moved back here after Dad’s first heart attack,” Steve parroted. “I wanted to spend more time with Dad. And I realized how little family I have left,” Steve said, the words slower now, “so when the show came up, I thought maybe it was just the right opportunity at the right time.”
Danny was very conscious of the crew behind him as he asked the next question carefully. “Did it help to have Kiley’s support at the hospital?”
“Having someone there to lean on, someone to know when to talk and when to distract you, and when to say nothing at all…that makes all the difference when you’re dealing with something like this,” Steve said, leaving Danny, at least, with no doubt that he wasn’t talking about Kiley. “I didn’t have that when I came back. And it was a completely different experience this time around.”
Danny forced himself to break that hold Steve’s eyes seemed to have on his and look down at the questions again. “Has your dad’s illness had any impact on you wanting to settle down?”
Steve considered the question. “Recent events have definitely made me think about making some changes in my life,” he said after a moment. “I think if you find the right person, it makes you rethink a lot of things.”
Every word rang true, and the affection in Steve’s voice warmed Danny to the core. He’d certainly gotten Gil his ‘good TV.’ Even if it was nothing like what anyone else thought, and it wouldn’t matter in the end.
Danny cleared his throat. “I think we got everything,” he said, even though there were a couple more questions on the sheet. They were rehashes, and he was pretty sure Steve couldn’t top what he’d said already.
And if he did, Danny couldn’t be responsible for what he might do.
The filming lights went out as Steve and Danny both stood. “You need anything?” Danny asked Steve, after thanking the crew.
“Come on,” Danny said, touching Steve’s arm to guide him towards the stairs. “I’ll make sure you get to your room okay.”
They walked side by side up the stairs and down the hall, the silence comfortable. Danny paused at the door to Steve’s room, but Steve ushered him in. Once the door was closed, Danny said, “I talked to Gil. He’s fine with you using my phone to call your dad.”
Steve’s smile made Danny have to take a deep breath. “Thank you,” Steve said, his voice quiet.
He turned away, giving Danny a second to recover from the effects of that smile and the thanks before he followed. Steve pulled his suitcase out of the closet and opened it. It looked empty, but, of course, Steve pushed some button and a false bottom opened up.
Steve pulled out a tablet, switched it on and used his fingerprint to open it before handing it to Danny. “The shipping logs are on there,” Steve said, “along with the other records I have.”
“How did you get these in here?” Danny asked.
“It’s classified,” Steve said.
Danny rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, you’d tell me, but then you’d have to kill me?”
“Something like that.”
After a moment, Danny shook his head. “You know what? I’m not even going to ask.”
“Good. Then let’s get to work.”
Two hours later they’d figured out several patterns all but proving their cases were linked and Danny had sent Chin the info using the email on Steve’s satellite communication equipped tablet.
“I’m just saying,” Danny said, as he handed the tablet back to Steve, “I think the satellite might be overkill. What’s wrong with nice, normal mobile internet?”
“Three words: cell phone jammers,” Steve said instantly, and Danny didn’t want to think about a life in which that was such a constant possibility. “Besides, this island isn’t exactly the most consistent when it comes to cell service.” He reached into his suitcase and pulled out a satellite phone. “Which is why I have this.”
Danny stared at it for a few seconds. “So I’m guessing you don’t need my phone to call your dad, then?”
“Of course I do. If I was in touch with him without that, they’d know I have a phone.”
“Right. Of course.”
“Speaking of which, here.” Steve held out his phone. “Put your number in there in case something goes wrong.”
Danny did, and a moment later Steve sent him a text, so Danny had Steve’s number. “Won’t that thing ringing give you away?” Danny asked.
“It’s silent. And I’ll only turn it on if I’m using it or if I…if I think anything’s gone wrong.”
Danny didn’t like to think about what that meant, especially not as late as it was, when his mind might get carried away. He rubbed his eyes. “I think I need some sleep,” he said, sliding off the bed. He swayed a little on his feet, but Steve’s hands were on his arms in an instant, steadying him.
“You okay there, Danno?”
“I’m fine, Stud.”
Steve laughed, his hands dropping to Danny’s hips. Danny couldn’t help swaying in towards him, and a second later, their lips met.
The kiss was shorter than Danny would’ve liked, but then Danny would’ve liked to stay there and climb into the bed and do a lot more than just kiss. “I have to go,” Danny muttered against Steve’s mouth.
“I know.” Steve let go and took a step back, removing his hands from Danny’s body. “You’d better go now, though,” Steve said, as he shoved his hands in his back pocket.
Danny forced himself to turn and walk out the door.
Danny’s phone woke him the next morning, the unmistakable Skype ring meaning two things—Grace was on the other end, and he’d overslept. He answered quickly, though, warmth flowing through him, as always, at the sight of her face.
“Hey, Monkey, how’s your morning?”
“I’m tired,” she said, frowning at him. “Why do you get to stay in bed and I don’t?”
Danny sat up, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t. I overslept.”
“Mom never lets me do that.”
She’d never let Danny do that, either, but he wasn’t about to start that conversation. “It’s a good thing,” Danny said. “Otherwise you might be late for school.”
They chatted for a few minutes before Danny heard Rachel calling in the background, and Grace had to go. He put the phone down reluctantly before flopping back down onto the bed, wishing for a few more minutes of sleep.
But no. Duty called, and if Steve could answer in his current situation, who was Danny to do any less?
Steve was already in the kitchen, drinking his disgusting green stuff, when Danny wandered in. “Morning,” Steve said, his smile doing more for Danny than the coffee probably would once he got his hands on it.
Not that he wouldn’t rather have his hands on something else, but that would have to wait.
“Morning,” Danny said, taking great care to brush against Steve unnecessarily as he reached for the cereal. “Sleep well?”
“Not really,” Steve said, and Danny didn’t miss the way Steve’s eyes kept drifting down to Danny’s lips. “I kept having these dreams.”
Both the look Steve was giving him, and the tone of his voice, made it clear what kind of dreams he was talking about. “Maybe it’s something in the water,” Danny said, leaning in just a little. “I had the same problem. I even overslept.”
“Sounds like you might need some kind of assistance to get to sleep,” Steve said.
The intent of the words was clear, but before Danny could respond, it gave him an idea that had nothing to do with sex. “You know,” Danny said slowly, “that’s an excellent point.”
“It is. I might need some assistance in sleeping and staying up. Maybe I should ask around for help.” Danny glanced towards the door, lowering his voice, even though he could hear no one, and there were no cameras in this room, Steve’s personal kitchen for the show, which was off limits to the girls and most of the crew, per Steve’s contract. “Maybe get samples to get tested.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” Steve said. “Can you swing the test?”
Danny nodded, tapping at his phone in his pocket to indicate Chin’s help. “As soon as I’ve had something to eat, I’ll go find some of that assistance.”
“Good. I’ve got some people looking into the other thing,” Steve said. “Maybe we can wrap things up sooner than we thought.”
Which, even though the fact that Steve’s career might leave them never seeing each other again, was still a good thing. Criminals would be brought to justice, Steve would get to talk to his Dad when he wanted, barring the Navy shipping him somewhere else, and Danny would get to spend time with Grace.
Everything would be almost perfect.
It was mid-morning before Danny had a chance to talk to Aaron. It was a welcome distraction from watching Kiley monopolize Steve’s time while the few other remaining contestants tried not to look murderous on camera.
Aaron was chatting with Kiana, which made things much easier. From the way they were off to the side, and how they were being extra careful, Danny bet he knew exactly what they were chatting about, too. He waited until Kiana left, though, before approaching Aaron.
“Hey, Williams,” Aaron said. “How’s life with the Stud?”
“Exhausting,” Danny said, not having to fake sounding tired. “In fact, that’s why I’m here.” Danny leaned in, looking around before continuing. “Kiana said you might be able to help me with that.”
Aaron looked around. “I might, yeah.”
Aaron named a price. At Danny’s nod, Aaron said, “Meet me back here at one.”
Aaron jogged off, and Danny went back to watching Steve flirt with people who weren’t Danny.
Danny had managed to alert both Steve and Chin by lunch, his conversation with each very brief. At one, Danny was waiting for Aaron when he strolled up, no hint of a drug deal about to take place.
“How’s it goin’, Williams,” Aaron asked, shaking Danny’s hand. Danny felt the small plastic bag of drugs between their hands, wrapping his own around it as Aaron let go.
Danny slipped the bag into his pocket, pulling the money out and holding it out so no one would see but Aaron. Aaron took it quickly and pocketed it. They talked for a minute before Aaron clapped him on the shoulder and walked off.
Danny watched him go before heading for the nearest safe bathroom to call Chin.
They’d just wrapped up shooting when Danny glanced at his phone. He hadn’t had a message from Chin that he’d arrived, but they were supposed to meet in ten minutes. They’d agreed on a spot along the fence, not far from the front gate, but out of the way. A few of the crew had mentioned it as a great place to slip out unnoticed if needed, so if Danny was seen, they wouldn’t be surprised.
Danny hurried off to the fence, slipping through it with ease. Chin appeared out of the darkness a few seconds later. “Hey,” Danny said. “I didn’t get your message you were here.”
Chin held up his phone. “No service.”
Maybe Steve was on to something with the satellite after all. Danny looked around the parking lot, then at Chin. “What did you do, walk here?”
Chin shook his head. “Car’s parked down the road about half a mile. You got the sample?”
“Yeah.” Danny pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to Chin. “How quickly do you think you can get a match to the drugs our dealer had on him?”
“I should have an answer in the morning.” Chin pocketed the drugs. “Maybe if we’re lucky this will be enough to convince the DA to give us immunity, and we’ll have things wrapped up before the weekend is over.”
As much as Danny wanted to wrap up the case, the thought of being done did have its down side. “We can only hope,” he said.
“How’s Steve dad doing?”
“Okay. Steve talked to him this morning and told me after that his dad was threatening to discharge himself.”
Chin laughed. “Sounds like Steve got it honest.”
“He got hit hard in a game one time,” Chin said. “Was out cold for a few seconds. But he insisted on going right back in.”
“Coach let him?”
Chin’s eyebrows shot up. “You think the coach could stop him?”
“Good point,” Danny said. “Let me guess, he ran three touchdowns himself and won the game?”
Chin laughed. “He got hit again three plays later and was out the next game with a concussion.”
“Funny, he neglected to mention that when talking about his glory days.”
“Yeah, I imagine he doesn’t like to talk about it.”
Maybe not, but Danny would be asking him about it at his first available opportunity. Speaking of which…. “I should get back,” Danny said. “Thanks for coming to pick this up so quickly.”
“Thanks for getting it. Newark was definitely right about you.”
“You’ll have to tell me more about that over drinks when this is all over.”
“Will do,” Chin said. “Be careful.”
Danny slipped back through the fence and snuck back up to the house.
“Hey Kimo,” Danny said, as he walked through the poolside area, “you seen McGarrett?”
Kimo jerked his head towards the house. “Went up to his room a few minutes ago. Said he was tired.” Kimo rolled his eyes. “Like what he does is hard work.”
Danny forced a laugh as he headed for the house. He knocked on Steve’s door, but there was no answer. When he poked his head in, there was no sign of Steve. They hadn’t made any plans, but he’d expected Steve to be waiting to hear about Danny’s meet with Chin.
Maybe he’d left a message. Danny went to his own room, closing the door behind him before looking up and nearly jumping out of his skin.
“Jesus, McGarrett, give a guy a heart attack.”
Sheepish looked both out of place and endearing on Steve’s face, as he slid off the edge of Danny’s bed. “Sorry. I wanted to see how the meet with Chin went.”
Like Danny didn’t know that Steve would be antsy for news? “I’m surprised you didn’t follow me down there.” At Steve’s look, Danny shook his head. “Let me guess, someone caught you trying to leave?”
“More or less, yeah.” Steve moved close enough to tap Danny on the arm. “So how’d it go?”
“Fine. No one saw me, and Chin has the sample. We should know something in the morning.”
Steve sighed. “So now we wait.”
“What did you expect, for Chin to have a drug testing lab hiding in the parking lot?”
“No, I just…I’m looking forward to this being over.”
“Yeah, it’s clear how difficult it is to fawn all over Kiley,” Danny said darkly.
Steve’s hand landed on Danny’s arm again, but this time it stayed. “Yes,” Steve said seriously, eyes holding Danny’s, “it is.”
Steve’s touch was warm, and Danny leaned into it just a little. “Sorry,” Danny said tiredly. “I know you’d like to wrap this up so you can spend some time with your dad.”
“Among other things, yes.” Steve’s smile was soft. “And I know you’d like to get out of here and spend time with Grace.”
Danny did, in fact, want to go spend time with Grace. That didn’t mean the prospect of losing this, even when he didn’t fully have it, had him dancing for joy. “Yeah,” Danny said. “I miss her. She’s the reason I came here….”
Steve studied him for a moment. “But?” he prompted finally.
“This,” Danny said, waving a hand around to indicate the house in general, “it hasn’t been all bad.”
Steve’s smile grew, something in it making Danny’s stomach flip. “I have to admit it got a little better the day filming started.”
“Oh?” Danny said, shifting a little closer, “what happened then?”
“Hm…well, all the girls showed up.” Before Danny could even act annoyed, Steve leaned in a little. “But I think it was some other guy who showed up first that made it bearable.”
Danny’s response was lost as Steve’s lips captured his, the kiss something like the one in the hospital office, but better. Still soft, but with the promise of so much more. Assuming, of course, they got to see each other again once they solved this case.
He’d tried not to think about the fact that they might never have the chance to go anywhere with this, that these few kisses might be all they’d get. But with the drugs in for testing and the possibility that this could be over tomorrow, there might not be another chance. And he was done with regrets.
Danny pushed Steve’s jacket off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Steve’s fingertips dug into Danny’s back as Steve deepened the kiss, his hands going to the buttons on Danny’s shirt. They made quick work of their clothes, kicking off shoes and pants as they stumbled to the bed.
Danny sat down on the edge of the bed, grasping at Steve’s shoulders to pull him onto the bed, but Steve straightened, sliding out of Danny’s reach.
“Wait,” Steve said, and Danny braced himself for whatever protest Steve was about to give, because it didn’t matter how much both of them were about duty first, tonight wasn’t going to get in the way of any duty they had to anyone.
Something must’ve shown in Danny’s face, because Steve gave him a smile. “The door,” Steve said, turning away and moving over to the door. It made sense when Steve turned the lock, checking to make sure it was locked before he came back to the bed.
Danny took a moment to appreciate the view, even as he laid down on the bed. Steve had looked good in a suit, but naked he looked nothing short of amazing. Danny wanted to keep him naked in bed for about a month, until he got tired of it long enough to need a break.
But they didn’t have a month. They might only have tonight.
Steve’s smile faded. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Danny shook his head. “Well, except that you’re standing up there instead of on the bed with me.”
“Oh, well, that I can fix.”
Steve crawled onto the bed, his body sliding over Danny, smooth skin, heat and muscle better than silk. Danny closed his eyes, enjoying the feel for a moment until he felt Steve’s hand on his cheek.
Danny opened his eyes, the warmth in Steve’s gaze causing Danny’s stomach to flip a little. “You with me?”
“Absolutely.” Danny pushed, rolling Steve onto his back and settling on top of him before leaning in for a kiss.
Steve’s hands felt almost reverent as they explored Danny’s back, moving down to his thighs and back up to grip Danny’s ass, urging Danny’s hips along as they moved against Steve’s. The friction was heaven, every bump of Steve’s cock against Danny’s sending an extra jolt through him.
Steve managed to get a hand between them, wrapping both their cocks in it, so much better than just the friction. Danny lost the kiss, his lips landing on any part of Steve’s skin they could find—his cheek, his neck, his shoulder—as pleasure shot through every nerve in his body over and over until he came hard, biting on whatever body part his mouth had latched onto.
He felt Steve stiffen, his hand tightening almost to the point of pain around their cocks and slowing at last before Steve let go. They lay there for what felt like forever, and yet not long enough, in Danny’s opinion, just breathing, until Danny finally, reluctantly, slid off to the side a little.
Steve’s arm tightened, though, keeping him close. They needed to move, Steve needed to go back to his room, just in case anyone came looking, even though it was Danny’s job to do that. But if someone came to find Danny to get Steve, it would be the same result.
So he would absolutely move. In just one more minute.
Danny woke, wondering what was different for a second until the warm body half underneath him reminded him. Right. Steve.
A quick glance at the clock told him that they were going to have to move, whether they wanted to or not. Danny stretched, feeling Steve moving against him as well. His eyes were still closed, though, so Danny placed a soft kiss on his lips.
Steve’s eyes opened, the light in them combined with his smile making Danny wonder if it was really that necessary to move, or if they could stay right there.
Except that duty called.
“Not that I’m complaining about my current situation,” Danny said, pausing for another kiss, “but you should probably get back to your room.”
“Mmm, you’ve had your wicked way with me and now you’re kicking me out?”
Danny shrugged. “Okay, then, stay as long as you like. I’m sure we can explain this if someone comes looking for us.”
Steve sighed. “I know. I just….”
He didn’t finish the sentence, choosing to pull Danny in to a longer kiss instead, one that led to another, and another. “I’d rather you stay anyway,” Danny said, wrapping one leg over one of Steve’s, “than watch you flirt with Kiley.”
“It’s not for much longer,” Steve said.
Yeah, and then what? Danny didn’t ask, though, he just got in a few more kisses before he had to make himself stop. “Okay, if you don’t go now,” Danny muttered against Steve’s lips, “I’m not letting you leave.”
“Promise?” Steve asked, but after one more kiss he pushed Danny away.
Danny rolled onto his back, watching Steve pull on enough clothes to be decent if he was seen in the hallway. Though if he was seen in the hallway, how he’d explain it was another question. “Be careful.”
“Don’t worry,” Steve said, flashing a smile as he sat down on the bed. “I’m trained as a Ninja.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
Steve’s grin grew as he leaned in for one more kiss. “Because you know me.”
He did, despite having only known Steve for a short time, and the thought made it a little easier to push Steve away. “Go. Now. Or I can’t be held responsible for what I do.”
“Yes, sir.” Steve gave him a little salute as he slid off the bed. “Night, Danno.”
Danny rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t hide his smile. “Night, Stud.”
The phone woke Danny from a rather filthy dream involving Steve and a beach. The call wasn’t Skype, so it wasn’t Grace, and the light wasn’t bright enough for him to have to be up yet, so whoever it was it better be good.
One glance at the number and the last bit of sleep cobwebs faded. “Manny’s pizza,” Danny answered.
“Hey, it’s Chin.”
“Please tell me it’s a match.”
“It’s a match,” Chin confirmed, and Danny let out a sigh of relief. “We’re trying to track the DA down now, but it’s Sunday, and apparently he goes on some kind of sabbatical on Sundays, and no one knows where he is.”
Danny wanted to throw something. “Isn’t there someone else who could give Johnson immunity?”
“Nope, Franklin has it locked up. He thinks this is his ticket for re-election.”
“Fine. When is he usually back from his Sunday sabbatical?”
“Not sure, but we’re trying to find him before then anyway.”
Danny took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “And what are the odds that he’s going to still say no?”
Chin hesitated just enough that Danny didn’t like the odds even before he said, “There’s no way of knowing.”
Great. So all this and they might still be stuck. And the part of him that didn’t mind being with Steve almost every waking minute of every day was drowned out by the parts that wanted to see Grace and wanted Steve to get to see his father.
Not to mention that the part of him that never wanted Steve to see Kiley again was ready to track down the DA and make him say yes.
“Danny?” Chin said.
“Yeah, sorry.” Danny scrubbed his face with one hand. “I should get going. I’ll keep my phone close. Let me know if you hear anything?”
“Will do. Hang in there.”
“Yeah,” Danny said, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “I’m doing my best.”
Danny was downstairs in the kitchen by the time Grace Skyped him. He’d just gotten past her assessment of her breakfast when Steve walked in, his smile making Danny’s heart skip a beat. Steve walked around the island to peer over Danny’s shoulder into the phone.
“Hi, Steve! Is Danno still protecting you?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Danny saw Steve nod. “He’s very good at it, too.”
“That’s my Danno.”
Steve rested his hand on Danny’s hip, warm and comforting, and far below where Grace could see. “Thanks for loaning him to me,” Steve said. “I couldn’t do this without him.”
Grace gave him a wave and a, “Bye, Steve!” and Steve wandered over to the fridge, leaving Danny to finish his call in peace. Or at least as much peace as Danny could get with Steve watching while he drank that green stuff he called breakfast.
When Danny had hung up, Steve was still watching, his brow slightly furrowed. “What?” Danny asked finally.
“Grace thinking you were protecting me makes so much more sense now.”
“So does some of the things your dad said.”
“What, exactly,” Steve asked slowly, “did he say?”
Danny shook his head. “Just things.”
“You know I have ways of making you talk, right?”
“You know I have ways of distracting you, right?” Danny said, but as private as the kitchen was, they really needed to stop this conversation, just in case. “Anyway,” he said, “I got a call this morning.”
It was clear Steve assumed it was from Chin. “Yeah. Turns out we’re on the right track. Now we’re just waiting to find out if that helps.”
Steve nodded, understanding the implication. “How long?”
Danny shrugged. “Could be all day, at least.”
“I know, it wasn’t what I wanted either, but….” Danny shrugged again. “Look on the bright side. You get to spend your whole day focusing on Kiley without worrying about it.”
He knew his voice gave away how thrilled he was by that idea, and Steve didn’t miss it, judging by the look on his face.
Steve put his now empty glass in the sink and moved back to the island, leaning against it, his thigh almost touching Danny’s hip as he leaned over. “I may spend the whole day with Kiley,” Steve said in a low voice, “but she won’t be who I’m focused on.”
Danny’s breath caught in his throat, and he wrapped his hand hard around his phone to keep from grabbing Steve and bending him over the island. “You’d better get upstairs and get dressed,” Danny said, his voice hoarse, “or you won’t be down here in time to spend the day with her.”
“I probably should get dressed, yeah,” Steve said, still in that voice that went straight to Danny’s dick. “You wanna come help?”
Which would lead to both of them getting undressed. “Neither of us would make it back down in time for shooting,” Danny said.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“It is,” Danny said, even as every other part of him was screaming that it wasn’t. “Duty calls.”
Steve took a long breath before he stepped back, rubbing his eyes. “You’re right,” he said. “Duty calls. I’ll see you in the living room in a few.”
He turned around and jogged off without another word.
Danny checked his phone, which was vastly more interesting than watching Steve and Kiley talk about puppies. I mean, seriously. Puppies? Who the hell could go on for five minutes about puppies? Danny knew the answer to that now—a desperate woman who’d just found out Steve had a dog when he was seven.
The fact that Danny had learned it from watching Steve and Kiley talked had absolutely nothing to do with Danny’s annoyance. Not at all.
He knew so little about Steve in so many ways. And yet somehow he just knew Steve. Just as Steve knew him. It would bother him more if he let himself think about it.
Good thing he had such scintillating TV to distract him, as he watched Kiley going into minute seven of her dog anthology, this time with a story about a dog she’d had as a teenager. Danny had to hand it to Steve—he was watching her as if she was giving him the most endearing national security briefing possible.
Gil’s ‘Cut!’ was a welcome sound. Danny finished off his bottle of water, tossing it into a nearby bin as he pulled his phone out of his pocket. Still no word from Chin, not since the early morning call that the drugs were a match.
Clearly the DA’s sabbatical involved a ten-mile swim to a deserted island somewhere.
Steve extricated himself from Kiley’s hands and made a bee-line for Danny. “What’s new?” Steve asked, grabbing the water Danny held out to him and gulping down half of it in one go.
“Nothing.” Danny sighed. “Not one thing, and I gotta say, I have never been a fan of the ‘no news is good news’ theory.”
Steve frowned as he screwed the lid back on the bottle. “Yeah, it’s never been one of my favorites either.”
“Of course,” Danny said, lowering his voice even more, “I’m suddenly off dogs, too.”
Steve shuddered. “I was thinking about telling her about the toy robot I had as a kid and see if I could get her to do ten whole minutes on robots,” he confided.
Danny laughed. “I suppose it could be worse.”
“Yeah, but it could be better.”
Steve’s voice was lower, that voice that Danny’s body had already learned to respond to. “It could,” Danny said, reaching into his pocket for his phone and carefully adjusting himself at the same time.
Gil’s voice was as good as cold water, though. “Steve!” he called, as he approached the two of them. “All set for lunch?”
“Be right there,” Steve said. Gil smiled and walked off.
“Want to have actual food after this?” Steve asked. “Assuming that I don’t get hungry and gnaw my arm off.”
“Well, you could actually eat something and then completely piss off everyone.”
Steve’s smile said he was clearly thinking breaking the cardinal rule of never eating while filming a meal would be worth it. “You know—“
“And then spend two extra hours while they reset everything and make you film it again.”
“No food it is, then.” He gave Danny’s arm a squeeze. “The sooner I get this done, the sooner we can eat,” Steve said before he jogged off.
Danny watched him go while pulling out his phone. Still no messages from Chin. He shoved the phone back in his pocket and resigned himself to more TV torture.
Somewhere around Kiley’s third robot story at the dinner table, Danny decided to take a stroll around the yard out of self-preservation. Either they needed to solve the case fast, or Danny was going to be in danger of being something less than professional.
He’d never been that, and he wasn’t about to start now.
It was bad enough when he was missing Grace and the case was keeping him from seeing her in any way other than on a phone screen. But now, with this thing with Steve…it was going to be a long time before the mere mention of ‘reality TV’ didn’t give him hives.
Even if part of him would be a little grateful to it for helping him find Steve.
Assuming, of course, he got to keep Steve. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a very real law, and Steve was very much beholden to it. And if Steve still wanted to try to make this work, then this sneaking around they’d been doing at the house would be their life. And Steve would be off on dangerous assignments most of the time, with no one knowing to contact Danny if something went wrong. He might just disappear one day and never come back.
Danny looked around and realized he’d ended up in the exact spot he’d convinced Steve to work with him that first day. Danny should’ve known then what he realized now—he’d had no choice from the moment they’d met. Just like he had no control over any of it.
Whatever happened, he’d deal with it, but there wasn’t anything he could do about any of it. And as soon as his brain accepted that fact, everything would be fine.
So maybe by the time he was sixty-five, he’d be resigned to it.
Danny was on his way back to the house when a bright spot of red, moving quickly, caught his attention. He ducked behind a tree, watching as Aaron headed for the parking lot.
Aaron had said he needed money before his meet on Tuesday. Maybe he was on his way to get it. Maybe this was Danny’s chance to end this once and for all. If he caught Aaron and one of his accomplices in the act, the DA could keep his precious hard stance on crime without offering immunity, because Johnson’s testimony would be irrelevant.
And frankly, after seeing DA Franklin’s re-election posters all over town his first day here, Danny was fine with one-upping him. The guy looked like a smug prick who needed a take down anyway.
With one last glance towards the house, Danny headed for the parking lot.
Danny reached his car just as Aaron was pulling out of the lot. He counted to ten before he turned the car on and followed, reaching the exit onto the main road just in time to see Aaron’s car disappearing around the bend to the left.
As soon as he was on Aaron’s tail, Danny pulled out his phone to alert Chin, glaring at it when it showed no signal. He was absolutely getting Steve to get him a sat phone after this was over.
There was an art to tailing someone, even more so if there was a chance they might recognize your car. The car HPD had loaned him was designed not to be noticed, though, so Danny just had to hope Aaron hadn’t clocked the license plate in the lot as he came and went.
He quickly realized that either Aaron had no idea he was being followed, or he was smarter than he let on and was waiting for the right time to make his move. He was using turn signals and doing everything by the book—Danny didn’t blame him, he wouldn’t want to get stopped either.
They hadn’t gone too far, and Danny still hadn’t managed a signal good enough to make a call, or even get off a text, when Aaron turned off onto a dirt and gravel road. Danny hung back, not wanting to be too close, and more than able to follow the dirt trail Aaron left.
When the dirt trail veered into an unkempt gravel lot, overrun with weeds, Danny stopped the car. He left it on the side of the road, just out of site, and continued on foot to where Aaron’s car was parked just outside of a building that had seen better days when Danny was a kid.
Danny crept inside the building, taking care to make the door as quiet as possible—no small feat, given the rusty hinges. He could hear Aaron in another room, pacing, from the sound of things, and talking in a low voice too quiet for Danny to make out words.
He needed to get closer. He quietly made his way back around to get a better vantage point to listen, but stopped when he heard the door open and close again. It had to be Aaron’s contact. Danny would let them go meet with Aaron, then move in to listen, and record the conversation on his phone, since it wasn’t currently doing him any good as an actual phone.
They’d have this case wrapped up by nightfall.
The click of a gun made him realize he’d just jinxed himself. “Stand up slowly, Detective,” the voice said from behind, “and drop your gun.”
Danny put the gun down and stood, raising his hands to show he wasn’t a threat as he turned around to find himself face to face with DA Franklin. “You know,” Danny said conversationally, “I’m pretty sure your boss would frown on doing this as a sabbatical.”
He saw Franklin raise his hand, felt a stab of pain, then everything went black.
His head hurt. And he couldn’t move his arms to get his hands up to try to protect it. Danny forced his eyes open, squinting against the light until he no longer felt like he was going to throw up. The light outside indicated he’d been out for at least half an hour, probably closer to an hour, but a rope wrapped around his wrists kept him from checking his watch or his phone to be sure.
He could feel his phone, still in his pocket. It didn’t do him any good, with no signal, but it hinted at a certain carelessness on the part of Aaron and Franklin that might be helpful.
The ropes were just loose enough that Danny could twist his hands a little—another sign of carelessness. On your average person, it would be enough to hold them, but that person had never spent a whole night while a police academy cadet playing a game of Escape with a fellow cadet. The immediate goal had been getting out of the ropes first so he got to call the shots in bed, but he could see the longer term benefits now.
He made it out of the ropes and flexed his hands a few times, moving his arms around to restore circulation. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been so careless as to leave him his gun, but a nice, solid piece of metal pipe nearby would do in a pinch. He’d just have to get creative.
Danny had caught enough of their conversation to know that they were arguing about how to get rid of him, but he had every intention of not going quite as easily as they thought he would. He gripped the pipe in his right hand, ignoring the pain in his head as he moved towards the door. The click as he pulled the door open sounded like a canon shot to him, but neither Aaron nor Franklin paused in their discussion.
The door opened quietly enough after that, and Danny crept down the hall, pausing at the end. Aaron and Franklin were easy to hear now, clearly just in the next room, so he couldn’t move around the corner without being seen.
He was readying to go around the corner and take his chances when a shadow that shouldn’t be moving to his left did. Danny raised the pipe, only to turn around face to face with a gun.
Behind the gun was Steve.
Danny lowered the pipe as Steve lowered the gun, but neither spoke, mindful of the not-quite-criminal- masterminds about fifteen feet away. Steve was silhouetted in sunlight, but Danny could see the outline of thigh holsters that made his mouth water.
And meant extra guns.
Danny pointed at one and held out a hand. Steve handed him the gun, then motioned for Danny to take whoever was on the right, while Steve took the left. Steve held up a hand with five fingers, counting down until it was a fist and they moved into the room.
The fight itself was anticlimactic. Faced with two professionals with guns, Aaron held up his hands in surrender. Franklin looked like he was considering his options, until Danny straightened his arm and said, “Please try it. Give me a reason.”
Franklin held up his hands.
Danny grabbed a zip tie from Steve, making sure to tie Franklin up much better than he had Danny. “How’d you find me?” Danny asked.
Franklin piped up quickly. “I saw your car and knew you had to be hiding—“
“Not you,” Danny said, yanking on the zip tie on Franklin’s wrists.
“I assume you mean me?” Steve looked amused. At Danny’s nod, Steve said, “We took a break and you weren’t there.” Steve sat Aaron up against the wall, his hand tied behind him. “I was on my way to your room when Kimo said he saw you heading for the parking lot. So I told him I wasn’t feeling well, went to my room and traced your phone.”
Danny frowned. “Traced my phone? It had no signal—believe me, I tried to call.”
“Signal, no. GPS, yes.” Steve grinned. “So what were you saying about my technology being overkill?”
His teasing tone was over-the-top flirting, but Danny could play that game, too. “Well, the technology would’ve been useless if you hadn’t missed me so much you tracked my phone.”
“Man,” Aaron said, “Gil is gonna be so disappointed when he finds out.”
Steve turned to look at him. “That I’m undercover?”
“No, gay. Undercover he could still sell, but gay is going to blow any chance he has to sell your relationship with Kiley.”
Steve rolled his eyes as he turned back to Danny, guiding him over to the other side of the room. “We’ll need to keep these two away from pretty much everyone,” Steve said quietly. “If they blow our covers, we get them, but we don’t know who we’re missing out on.”
“Yeah. I would call Chin to come pick them up, but I have no signal, remember?”
“No need, I called him already. He should be here any minute.”
“And the military hot on his heels, I suppose?”
Steve rubbed at the back of his neck. “I didn’t call it in yet,” he said after a moment.
“Won’t you get into trouble for that?”
Steve shrugged. “I wasn’t sure what I would find. So I figured I’d assess the situation and call Chin for backup, just to be safe, then let my superiors know if it was relevant.”
“So now that it’s relevant?”
“I’ll have to give them a call once we get this part cleaned up with Chin.”
As if on cue, sirens started wailing in the distance. “Looks like he’s almost here,” Danny said. “But I have one more question.”
“You don’t have a car. How did you get here?”
From Steve’s grin, Danny knew he wasn’t going to like the answer. “I hotwired one of the production cars.”
“You…of course you did.”
“Sorry, I know I’m not on the insurance, but I figured in this case it was okay.”
“Well,” Danny said, matching Steve‘s grin, “I guess I can let it slide this time.”
Chin was the first in the door, taking in the scene as he joined Steve and Danny. “Interesting idea of a sabbatical,” Chin said, looking at Franklin huddled in the corner.
“That’s what I thought,” Danny said. “Personally, I was convinced he spent every Sunday correcting people’s comments on the internet, so this is a big letdown.”
Chin laughed. “Nice of you to gift wrap them for us,” he said. “But you might want to get out of here, just in case.”
“What about these two?” Steve asked. “Will they meet any of their friends when the rest of HPD gets here?”
Chin shook his head. “The two officers on the way are my cousins. I can vouch for them. I’ll make sure to keep these two,” he added, nodding at Aaron and Franklin, “away from anyone they might be able to warn about you.”
“You think this might finally be enough to get us out of this show?” Danny asked.
“I’d say we’ve got a good shot.” Chin gave him a smile. “Hang in there.”
“Yeah, I’m working on it.”
Steve put a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go before anyone else gets here.”
“Yeah. Thanks, Chin.”
“My pleasure, believe me. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”
Sorry for the delay. I was horribly sick, and my muse apparently caught it, too. She seems better now. We'll see about me. :)
The parking lot was quiet when Danny pulled in right behind Steve. That was a good sign—clearly no one was searching for the cars yet. They parked in the same spots as before, then Danny led Steve over to the not-so-secret entrance, through the yard, and into the kitchen.
“Let me go through first,” Danny said. “I can make sure the coast is clear and if I see anyone, I’ll say I was getting something for you because you’re still not feeling well.”
Danny nodded, grabbed some water from the fridge and headed out. He’d made it to the stairs when Gil came around the corner.
“There you are,” Gil said. “I was just going to check on Steve.”
“He’s in his room,” Danny said. “Still not feeling well.”
Gil frowned. “Kimo said he saw you heading for the parking lot.”
“Yeah, I had some anti-nausea pills in my glove compartment. My daughter gets car sick. McGarrett had already said he was feeling nauseous, so I thought they might help.”
“So he’s still not coming down?”
Gil sounded annoyed that Steve would dare to get sick and disturb filming. “Not unless you want to film him throwing up all over Kiley.”
“We’re on a tight schedule.”
“It’s okay,” Danny said. “Probably something he ate. He’ll be through the worst of it by morning. We were scheduled for a late start tomorrow anyway, so we can film lunch mid-morning and we won’t lose too much time.”
Which Gil knew, he just didn’t like changing his precious schedule. “You’re right. Better that than him being green on screen.”
“Exactly. Let me get this water up to him so he’s hydrated for tomorrow.”
Gil nodded. “Thanks for taking care of him.”
“That’s my job, right?”
Gil laughed. “I guess it is.”
He turned around and walked off. Danny waited until Gil’s footsteps had faded before he went back to the kitchen. “Coast is clear,” he said. “Let’s go.”
They made it to Steve’s room without running into anyone else, though Danny noticed Steve did a good job of putting on a slightly ill face, just in case.
Once they were safely in Steve’s room with the door closed, Steve dropped all pretense. “I guess you should stay, since they’re expecting you to take care of me,” Steve said, dropping onto the bed.
“Right.” Danny walked slowly over to the bed, heat pooling in his stomach at the way Steve laid back on the bed, one arm tucked behind his head. “They’d be suspicious if I went back to my room.”
“Absolutely.” Steve’s smile turned that heat in Danny into a fire. “Besides, I should be around if Chin calls.”
Danny stopped at the side of the bed. “Don’t you need to call your superiors?”
Steve shook his head. “Called in from the car on the way back because, unlike yours, my phone actually works out there.”
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a funny guy?”
Steve laughed softly. “You know,” he said, his voice low, his eyes dropping to Danny’s mouth, “we’ll have to figure out a way to pass the time while we wait.”
“Checkers?” Danny said.
“Don’t have ‘em.”
Danny leaned against the bed. “I’m out of ideas, then.”
“I can think of a few.” Steve reached out and grabbed Danny’s arm, pulling him onto the bed.
Danny went with the motion, rolling onto his side, leaving him still pressed against Steve’s hip. “Unfortunately,” Danny said, his hand drifting down Steve’s stomach, resting on Steve’s waist, just above where it wanted to be, “we’re a bit limited in what we can do right now.”
“Because I’m not going to have Chin calling while we’re in the middle of having sex.”
Steve laughed, squeezing Danny a little in response. “Fair enough,” Steve said. “But does that mean we can’t do this?” He rolled onto his side, one leg sliding in between both of Danny’s, lips meeting Danny’s in a soft kiss.
Danny opened his mouth, deepening the kiss. Several moments later, he pulled back just enough to say, “I think we can do that.”
Steve’s smile was so gorgeous Danny had to kiss it. That led to several more kisses, and shirts being pushed up further and further until Danny had to stop. He lay there a minute, just breathing against Steve, eyes closed, before he finally opened his eyes and looked up at Steve. “Maybe I should go back to my room.”
“Stay,” Steve said, pulling him a little closer.
That smile was going to be the death of Danny. “When Kimo said he’d seen you going to the parking lot,” Steve said slowly, the smile fading, “and I didn’t see Aaron anywhere, I knew you had to have gone after him. And I knew you didn’t have any backup. I couldn’t get to my room fast enough.”
He took a deep breath, carding a hand through Danny’s hair. “When your phone went straight to voicemail, I tracked you, but I wasn’t even sure until I got to your location if you were on your own or in the trunk of a car or what.”
“I was fine. I could’ve taken two idiots like that. I mean, really, a ‘sabbatical’? Who talks like that?” Danny shifted, his dick brushing against Steve’s, reminding him of what he couldn’t have just yet. “I’m glad you showed up when you did, though, so I didn’t have to work quite so hard.”
“Right, you were totally on top of things.”
“I was. But it was sweet that you were so worried that you risked your cover to rescue me. Not that I needed rescuing.”
“Nope,” Steve agreed. “You were already out of your ropes and about to round them up. You didn’t even need me.”
“Oh I don’t know about that,” Danny said, leaning in for another kiss. After all, they might not be able to have sex, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t make some good use of the time.
The ringing of Danny’s phone dragged him out of sleep. He rolled out of Steve’s arms just enough to reach for the phone. The fact that it was still dark, along with how tired he was, told him it wasn’t morning yet. That told him it had to be Chin on the phone, even before the screen confirmed it.
“Manny’s Pizza,” Danny said, as Steve stirred beside him.
“Hey, it’s Chin.”
Danny sat up, Steve following suit. “What’s the verdict?” Danny asked, as he switched to speaker phone, making sure to set the volume low, just in case.
“Those two rolled on each other and then started spouting names. We’re working with Naval Intelligence to round up everyone.”
“Was it Franklin’s operation?” Steve asked, sounding as skeptical about that as Danny had been.
“No, he was just the HPD connection. The guy he took orders from is in LA, part of the network that produces the show. There were a couple of people in government in LA, customs…there’s a list that will probably grow as we round up more of the network and they start talking.”
“What about here in the house?” Danny asked.
“A couple of the other transportation guys,” Chin said. “Aaron’s got logs and a few other things stashed in his room, under his mattress—not exactly a criminal mastermind, that one. You might want to get those before anyone there knows we’re on the way.”
Steve nodded to Danny. “What’s your ETA?”
“We’re about to liaise with Naval Intelligence,” Chin said. "Should be out there by six.”
Danny checked the clock to find it was just after four. “We’ll get Aaron’s stuff before then and be waiting,” he said.
“Got it. I’ll let you know when we’re almost there. See you soon.”
Danny hit the end button and put the phone back on the nightstand. “I suppose you want to go get Aaron’s evidence?”
One corner of Steve’s mouth quirked up. “You’re not going to fight me on it?”
“Who am I to deny you the chance to play Ninja warrior?”
“That’s a totally different reality show, Danno.”
“Like you wouldn’t jump at the chance to be on that one?”
Steve shook his head. “Nah, I’d hurt those guys.” He gave Danny a grin. “Besides, I hear their producers aren’t nearly as good looking.”
Danny rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t hide a smile. “Get going, Ninja boy, before I change my mind.”
With a quick kiss, Steve rolled off the bed. “Be back in ten minutes.”
It was only eight minutes before Steve was back with a black duffel bag. “Nice of him to keep it all in one place and neatly packaged,” Steve said, dropping the bag on the floor by the closet, next to his suitcase.
“I do like criminals who make things easy.”
“I prefer it when they don’t try to kill my partner,” Steve said darkly.
The word sent a little thrill through Danny, even as it made his stomach sink. They couldn’t be partners, not if Steve was going to stay with the Navy. And he’d made no indication that he wasn’t. “Yeah, well, we both made it through alive, so there’s no need to go having him eliminated, or whatever you Navy types say.”
“We don’t say eliminated.” Steve sat down on the bed. “That’s just in the movies.”
Danny raised an eyebrow. “Sure, so you say.”
Steve rolled his eyes before he leaned in for a kiss, then another one. “I should get everything together,” he said, sitting back up. “They’ll be expecting me to be ready when they get here.”
“Right.” Danny let him go, dropping his hands to his sides. “Duty first.” He sat up, pushing his hair back, trying to do something about the mess it had become. “I should get back to my room, too, and get ready. I need to look professional—can’t risk them deciding not to keep me on and ending up away from Grace again.”
He was almost to the door when Steve called his name. Danny turned around to see an odd look on Steve’s face. “No one’s going to send you away. Don’t worry about it.”
So easy to be sure of everything when everything came easy to you. But there was no point in arguing. “Yeah,” Danny said. “I’ll come get you when I hear from Chin.”
He walked out without looking back again.
By the time Danny got the message from Chin, he was showered, shaved and in clothes far more professional than what he’d been wearing for the show. He’d also packed up his things, because the sooner he could get away from this house and see Grace, the better.
The fact that it meant leaving Steve behind was just something he’d have to deal with.
He took a deep breath and put on his game face before leaving his room, not bothering to knock on Steve’s door. Steve was packed, too, and freshly showered, wearing the cargo pants and t-shirt combination Danny associated with their daily breakfast, before Steve had to change into the Stud.
“Wow,” Steve said, raising his eyebrows as he looked Danny up and down. “A shirt and tie?”
“What’s wrong with looking professional?”
Steve shook his head, a glint in his eye. “Nothing. I was thinking about changing into a tuxedo myself.”
“As opposed to your pajamas?” Danny asked with a nod to Steve’s outfit.
“Danno,” Steve said, lowering his voice as he stepped closer, “you should know I don’t wear pajamas.”
Danny swallowed hard as Steve pulled him in for a kiss. “Chin, HPD and half the Navy are going to be here in, like, two minutes,” Danny said, lips moving against Steve’s.
“I doubt it’s half the Navy,” Steve said.
Danny didn’t feel like explaining hyperbole right then, so he settled for one more kiss before reluctantly pulling away. He had to learn how to let go of Steve; might as well start now. “We should go,” Danny said. “We’ll need to let them in the gate.”
Steve frowned for a moment before nodding. “Right. Duty calls.”
“Yeah, duty calls.” The perfect reminder that Steve would be off wherever duty called him, doing whatever it demanded, in a matter of days. “Come on,” Danny said, turning for the door. “Let’s go.”
They’d just gotten to the gate when Chin’s car rolled in, a few HPD vehicles close behind, followed by what—despite what Steve had said—was starting to look like half the Navy. Or at least its vehicles.
“They do know we’re not invading Normandy, right?” Danny asked Steve.
“Everything in the house is potentially evidence,” Steve said. “What were they going to pack it in?”
Right. Because the Navy would have the capability to pack an entire crime scene, or even a house of potential crime evidence, all up and cart it off somewhere. “But really, did they have to bring a fleet?”
“It’s five trucks, Danny.”
Danny nodded at two more as they pulled in. “Seven.”
Steve shook his head, tapping Danny on the arm. “Come on,” he said, opening the gate.
Chin reached them first, shaking Danny’s hand, then Steve’s. “Nice work,” Chin said. “This is huge.”
“Apparently the Navy thinks so,” Danny said.
A man in his early fifties who looked like he’d stepped right off a recruiting poster marched up to them, stopping as if he’d hit a wall. “Commander,” he said to Steve, “nice work.”
“Thank you, sir.” Steve turned to Danny. “None of it would’ve been possible without Detective Williams,” he said, nodding at Danny. “Danny, this is Commander Roark.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Roark nodded. “Thank you for your assistance, Detective.” Roark looked at Steve and jerked his head over towards the trucks that looked as though they were pilgrims circling the wagons.
“I’m really glad my dad didn’t follow through on his threat to send me to military school when I was thirteen,” Danny said.
Chin laughed. “Still, their help made this go a lot faster than it would’ve. You could’ve been stuck here a few more days without their reach.”
“God forbid.” Not that the idea of a few more days with Steve sucked, but Danny missed his daughter. Plus, watching Steve flirt with Kiley had gotten really old.
He almost felt guilty for looking forward to her reaction.
“What’s so funny?” Chin asked.
Danny shook his head. “Just can’t wait to see some of the people inside when they find out. Come on.” Danny started towards Steve and his commander. “Let’s get GI Joe and Delta Force moving.”
Danny barely beat Steve to Gil’s room. By the time Danny knocked, Steve was standing next to him. Gil opened the door with his cell phone in hand. “What’s wrong?” Gil asked. “Did something happen with the girls?”
“Not exactly,” Danny said. “Come with us.”
They led Gil downstairs where he found various members of the Navy packing up camera equipment. “Hey, you can’t touch that!” Gil said.
He started into the room, but Steve stopped him with one hand. “They can,” Steve said, holding out a piece of paper. “The Navy and the Honolulu Police are seizing everything to do with the show.”
Gil looked as if someone had told him they didn’t want to be on TV. “They can’t do that.”
“We can,” Steve said. “And we are.”
“But they—wait, we?”
Steve nodded. “Afraid so. Danny and I have been investigating a smuggling ring that has been using the show to move product. So everything involved with it and the production company is ours until we decide otherwise.”
Gil looked between the two of them several times, mouth hanging slightly open, before settling on Danny. “You’re not a producer?”
“Nope. Detective,” Danny said.
Gil nodded as if it made sense, even if his expression made it clear it didn’t. “I’m going to go call my lawyer,” he said after a moment.
“Probably a good idea,” Danny agreed.
He wandered off, dazed, as Danny saw Kiley and the two other remaining girls escorted into the room by a couple of HPD officers. “Give me a minute,” Steve said to Danny, squeezing his arm before crossing the room.
Danny watched as Steve explained to the girls what was going on, and as he had a brief conversation with Kiley that left her smiling, even as she was clearly disappointed. Steve leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek before he headed back towards Danny.
But Danny’s eyes were still on Kiley, watching Steve walk away like she knew she’d just missed out on something special.
He recognized that feeling a little too well.
By the time the crew was rounded up and sorted into who was getting questioned versus arrested, the sun was getting high in the sky and Danny was equal parts tired, hungry and ready for this to be over. He and Steve had given their input on various crew to Roark, Chin and some others, and the whole production had been quickly and efficiently packed up, given the size of the job.
Everyone started filing out, until there were just a few Navy and HPD, and Chin, Steve and Danny left. Steve said something to Chin in that language Danny still hadn’t figured out, something that apparently required an elaborate hand shake, before turning to Danny.
Chin took a look at the two of them, blinked, and said, “I’ll be back in a minute,” before hurrying over to the HPD officers.
“Is it wrong,” Steve said, “that it feels weird to walk out of here like a free man?”
Danny laughed. “We’re both clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or something.”
“That must be it.” Steve’s hand twitched, as if it was going to move towards Danny, but then stopped. Steve glanced over at Roark and the two remaining Navy officers. “Listen, Danny…I’ll see you, okay?”
Sure you will. “Right. Yeah. I’ll see you.”
Steve’s smile made no sense, but he shook Danny’s hand, fingers drifting over Danny’s pulse on his wrist for just a second, sending a little shiver through him. With one more smile, Steve turned around and marched over to Roark without looking back.
Last chapter! Thank you all so, so much for the encouragement, the kind words, and the patience when I got sick and disappeared. :)
Wow, five whole days until I have to start coda writing. What ever will I do with myself??
“Hey, Danno,” Grace asked in the middle of chewing her French fries, “can I have ice cream?”
“Can you have ice cream? Of course you can have ice cream.” Danny was so happy to see her that he’d buy her an ice cream store if he could. “What kind of dinner would it be if we didn’t have ice cream?”
He looked around the hotel restaurant, trying to find their waiter. Everything looked expensive—then again, this was Hawaii, everything was expensive. But the Kahala Resort wasn’t the kind of place his department would ever put someone up.
Then again, they’d never flown someone five thousand miles to do quite what he’d had to do.
Grace’s tone meant it wasn’t the first time she’d said his name. “Sorry, Monkey. What was that?”
“I said is Steve safe now?”
“He is,” Danny said, even though he’d heard nothing from Steve himself since he’d said, ‘I’ll see you,’ that afternoon. For all he knew Steve was already on a plane to his next mission. Duty always called, and Steve McGarrett didn’t seem the type to let it go to voicemail.
“Am I gonna get to meet him?”
I hope so stuck in Danny’s throat. “I don’t know. He travels a lot.”
“He seems nice,” Grace said. “I hope I get to meet him.”
“Me, too, honey. Me, too.”
Danny stood in the doorway of the room Grace had chosen, watching her sleep. She’d dragged him out to see the dolphins as soon as they’d gotten there—and whatever Chin had done to get Rachel to hand Grace over for the weekend on no notice, Danny would be forever grateful. She’d fallen asleep talking about their plans to go swim with the dolphins the next afternoon.
Danny had carried her to bed, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to leave the room. The ability to be there, to watch her sleep, to know with his own eyes that she was safe and he could protect her was something he’d missed so much sitting in New Jersey.
He wasn’t giving it up. If HPD couldn’t find a place for him, he’d find something to do. But he wasn’t leaving Hawaii, not now.
He might have had to give up Steve, but this was something he was never, ever giving up.
Danny’s cell phone woke him early the next morning. He checked the number before answering. “Manny’s Pizza.”
“You know you don’t have to use code anymore, right?” Chin said.
“Yeah, but it amuses me.”
Chin laughed. “How’s the hotel?”
“Fantastic,” Danny said. “I’m thinking about moving in.” He sat up, running a hand through his hair and looking at the clock. Just after seven—Grace would be up soon, no doubt, and he’d be lucky to get her to eat before she dragged him down to the beach. “You sure HPD wouldn’t want to pay for a few weeks?”
“You’ll have to be the one to ask for an extension,” Chin said. “I don’t think I could get a yes, but you might.”
Danny shoved the covers back. “Oh good,” he said, as he got up, “does that mean they like me so much they’re going to offer me a job?”
“I think there may be a job for you, but I don’t know the details just yet, sorry. You should know something soon, though.”
He wanted something settled, but he trusted Chin. He could wait. “I guess there are worse ways to spend a weekend than in a luxury hotel with the best daughter in the world.”
“I’ll let you get to it then, but I’ll be in touch soon, I promise.”
Danny hung up the phone, dropping it on the nightstand and looking around. He should take a shower and get dressed, but first he should order food if he wanted to make sure Grace ate before they hit the beach.
He placed the room service order, then jumped in the shower, soaking for a few minutes, letting the heat take away some of his exhaustion. He’d slept well, but it hadn’t stopped dreams of Steve from making it a little restless.
If only the shower could soak away those memories, it might be a little easier to put it behind him.
He’d just finished drying his hair when room service knocked. Danny threw on sweats and hurried out to the door. “Sorry,” he said, as he pulled the door open, “I was—“ He stopped as he saw Steve standing on the other side of the door, looking mouthwatering in a white t-shirt and black cargo pants. “You’re not room service.”
“No, I’m not.” After a moment, Steve jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I can go get you some food, though, if that’s what I need to get through the door.”
“Oh, sorry!” Danny pulled the door open. “I’m, um…sorry, I was just surprised.”
Steve stepped inside. “I said I’d see you,” he said, turning to face Danny as the door closed.
“Yeah, I know, I just…I hadn’t heard anything from you and I didn’t know…I mean, the Navy could’ve sent you anywhere.”
“I had some things to take care of before I could do what I wanted.”
Danny nodded. “Right. Duty first, as always.”
“Something like that.” Steve glanced around the living room of the suite. “Nice place.”
“Yeah, I guess HPD was really happy about the bust for them to have put us up here,” Danny said. “How’s your dad doing?”
“Good,” Steve said. “He should be out of the hospital Monday.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Danny took a deep breath. “So, I guess you’re shipping off soon, then?”
Steve pressed his lips together for a second. “Not exactly.”
Hope warred with the pain of knowing the loss would be harder if Steve stuck around first. “They give you leave?”
“I, uh…I’m officially in the Reserves.”
His tone sounded like he wasn’t exactly sure. “You don’t sound convinced of that.”
“No, it’s not that,” Steve said quickly. “It’s just…a lot’s happened really fast, and I’m still…processing.”
“Okay.” So Steve wasn’t going to be sent off by the Navy at a moment’s notice—well, unless he got called up. That was something. “So you’re in the Reserves…what does that mean?”
“Did I ever mention Dad and the Governor are old friends?”
Danny frowned. “Yeah, I think there were a couple of stories that day in the hospital. Why?”
“She’s starting a task force,” Steve said. “High profile cases, no red tape.” He took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “She asked me to run it. And I accepted.”
Danny realized his mouth was hanging open and closed it sharply. “So you’re not leaving Hawaii?”
Steve shook his head. “Here’s the thing,” he said. “I’m gonna need a team. And I can’t think of anyone better to help me start it than you.”
“Are you offering me a job?” Danny said.
“Yeah.” Steve bit his lower lip. “Technically I might have already hired you…assuming you didn’t have your heart set on HPD?”
Danny had his heart set on a lot of things, and he was starting to think maybe he might even get a shot at them. Unless…. “Well, that depends.”
Uncertainty flashed across Steve’s face. “On?”
“What’s this task force’s policy on fraternization? Because if it’s against the rules, I might have to take my chances with HPD.”
Nice to know that slow smile of Steve’s still had that same warm effect on Danny’s stomach. “I get to make the rules,” Steve said. “And there are no rules against that.”
“Why do I have the feeling that the governor is going to regret giving you that much leeway?”
Steve shrugged. “So are you in?”
“Yeah,” Danny said, moving forward, “I’m in.”
He pulled Steve into a kiss, only then starting to believe this was real. A few kisses later, Danny pulled away. “Come on,” he said, leading Steve into the living room. “Have a seat. You look like you’re about to fall over. Have you slept at all?”
Danny dropped onto the couch, Steve following suit close beside him. “Not really,” Steve said. “I’ve been arranging everything. There’s a lot of—“
“Danno!” Grace came running into the room, “We need to go to the—“ She stopped, staring. “Steve!”
“Hey, Grace! Good to meet you in person.”
Her smile was huge. “You, too.” She turned to Danny. “I thought you didn’t know if I’d get to meet him.”
“I didn’t. But here he is.”
Her smile faded. “Does Danno have to go protect you again?”
“Not this time,” Steve said. “I think we’ll just protect each other from now on.”
“Can you do it from the beach?” she asked.
They both laughed. “Yes, we’ll go to the beach,” Danny said. “Go get your suit on, and when breakfast gets here and we’ve eaten, we’ll go to the beach.”
She turned and ran to her room. Danny watched her go before turning back to Steve. “So are you going to the beach with us?”
“That depends, do I get to swim with the dolphins with you, too?”
“How did you know we were—wait.” Chin’s words about Danny having a better chance of getting an extension at the hotel suddenly made much more sense, as did this kind of expense. “Did you set this up?”
“Set what up?”
Danny waved a hand around. “The suite, the dolphins, all of it.”
He’d seen Steve do a lot of things, but he’d never seen him blush. “I, um…might’ve done something. Maybe.”
Something. Yeah. Danny didn’t even know what to say. “I, uh…thank you.”
Steve nodded, a soft smile on his face. “You’re welcome.”
Danny leaned in, giving him a kiss, but pulling back before Grace could come out and see them. He wanted to explain before she walked in on something like that. It hit him then that he would have the need to explain, because Steve wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was Danny.
“What’s that look?” Steve asked.
He nodded towards Danny. “That one?”
“Nothing.” It would sound too corny saying it out loud. “Just trying to figure out how I’m going to explain all this to Grace.”
“You’re not,” Steve said. “We are. Together.”
Danny smiled. “I like the sound of that.”