xix. blushing red

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xix

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xix. BLUSHING RED

35,000 FT ABOVE THE ATLANTIC OCEAN

"Screw airplanes and screw you. The CIA has access to billions of dollars, the best brain power in the world, and yet you still can't get rid of turbulence?" I groan.

"That's not how physics works," Ace deadpans.

I honestly was enjoying the ride, with the exception of the turbulence, because we were on the CIA's private jet. Mahogany crafted the interior tables of the plane and the minute details were decorated with gold. Everything about it screamed luxury.

An air hostess had even come by with bubbly champagne. Just as I was about to take a glass, Ace grabbed the entire tray.

I smack him in the back of his head.

"You have a drinking problem," Ace states. "And you need to be sober for the next twelve hours."

I smack him again.

"Jesus Christ woman!" Ace groans.

I smile in content. Annoying people was second nature to me.

"Where are we going?" Skye asks. "You woke us up at 6 AM, so we better be going to Aruba."

"Toulouse, France," Ace replies. "The agency confirmed using the data from the mainframe many of Thirteen's high-level subordinates. One of them is Grant Deschamps, the ambassador to France."

A frustrated sigh escapes my lips; everyone with power seemed to be deep in Thirteen's pocketbook.

"Are we gonna threaten the Ambassador or something?" Xavier questions.

"We don't want to risk geopolitical tensions. We're just going to ask him to comply; hopefully, it won't come to threats," Ace grimaces.

Chase folds his arms over his chest. "What's our gameplan?"

"Octavia and I will go speak to Ambassador Deschamps," Ace instructs. "Everyone else go undercover within our France Operatives. See how deep Thirteen's syndicate runs... and be careful."

What Ace said made sense. It was ambitious, but if we could secure an ambassador's testimony, we would be one step closer to crippling Thirteen's empire for good. Although, we were essentially convincing Ambassador Deschamps to risk his entire political career to testify.

Soon enough, the private jet lands in Toulouse. I've always wanted to visit this city; it was dubbed "the Rose City" from its distinctive architecture. Every brick, tile, and wall whispered remnants of its history.

"Can you speak French?" Ace asks.

"J'aime la baguette is pretty much all I got," I shrug.

"Aujourd'hui va être une longue journée..." Ace rolls his eyes.

I smack him again.

TOULOUSE, FRANCE

Inconspicuous grey cars take us from the landing site to an apartment close to the center of the city. Uniform terracotta buildings flew past the tinted windows, reflecting the ambiance of the quaint, historic town.

The elegant city-hall was only a couple of blocks from our suite on the top floor. In fact, the government building was visible from the window.

We had a free night before our mission tomorrow. Xavier, Chase, and Skye had left to explore the city. Just as I was about to leave with them, Ace stops me by my wrist.

"You need to be trained in physiological reading," Ace states. "It's standard protocol for all field agents."

My eyes roll at him. "Why doesn't anyone else need to train?"

"Everyone else can take out their enemies without reading them—you can't. So unless you want to die in the field, I suggest training tonight."

"Aw...It's almost like you care," I say without hiding my sarcasm.

A long sigh escapes my lips. All I wanted to do was explore the city and standing in front of me was the man that prevented me from doing so.

"Of course I care," Ace states. "If you die on my watch, then I won't get a raise."

My eyes narrow in his direction. "I hope to take you down with all the psychological warfare you teach me."

A chuckle rang out in the rented apartment. My supervising officer becomes silent; he circles me like a predator waiting to strike. I find my breath hitching as Ace approaches me.

The gold glint in his eyes give nothing away when we scrutinize one another, but I refuse to back down.

"You want to take me down, Cupcake?" Ace says while he raises an eyebrow.

"Trust me Banana Bread, there's nothing I'd want more," I retort. "I dream about it every night."

"You dream about me every night?"

My face scrunches; I realize the mistake I've made.

"It's a goddamn nightmare."

Ace gives me a knowing smirk. "I'm not a proctologist, but I know bullshit when I hear it."

"Please, hold your breath—you're going to need it to blow up your next date."

"Ouch. Why don't you help me with that?"

Red flushes to my face. "I'm going to kick your ass, Banana Bread."

"And how do you plan on doing that?"

Ace suddenly closes the distance between us. Although I tried to not let it show, the close proximity of our bodies was seriously hazing my subconscious.

Ace places my hands in his. We stay like this, fingers intertwined, for what seems like a snapshot of frozen time.

"One fifteen," Ace asserts.

"What?" I respond. My mind's ability to comprehend phrases was hindered.

"Your pulse. It's spiking again—" Ace leans in "—here's the interesting thing though; whenever I come closer to you, your pulse increases. It's at about one twenty-three right now."

I flinch unwillingly. The asshole found amusement in toying with me. Red was practically flooding to my cheeks; in an attempt to save the scraps of my dignity, I instinctively smack his chest.

Ace intercepts my attack before I can hit him. He restrains my wrist with one hand and pulls my waist crashing into him with the other hand. I try to draw away and not give in, but I'm unable to leave his embrace.

I fucking hated giving him the upper hand.

"I don't think you want to assault a spy," Ace grins.

"I don't think you want to assault a stubborn teenage girl," I spit back.

My elbow jabs deeply into Ace's chest; he grabs my arms and spins me into him—effectively restraining me once again. Ace actually laughed when I attacked him.

I try again, this time attempting to kick him in the shin, but Ace blocks the attack. My assailant slams me into the wall, which leaves me panting between him and the wall. Before I can try once more, he pins my hands above my head.

The smug asshat has me trapped.

"One hundred and thirty-six." Ace says.

"Go to hell," I counter.

"Now that I've proved a point," he says with an amused look, "let's begin your training."

Octavia: "What do you call an owl that does magic tricks? Whodini. Now that I told you a joke, you gotta vote."

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