At Brent’s suggestion, Emily called Kara Miles right after she finished reading her cover identity papers. The phone rang for a long time before the woman finally picked up.
“Hello?” she yelled over the background noise on her end.
Emily moved the phone away from her ear a little and grinned. She could hear the twins in the background, and she couldn’t quite make out if the ruckus was happy or not. “Hello, Mrs. Miles, this is Emilia Rock.” Emily glanced down at the open folder on her lap. “We ran into each other at the store a few days ago when I caught your kiddos before they ran out into the street.”
“Oh, yes! Are you calling to tell me you have an opening?”
“Yes! I’m open to babysitting or nannying or mother’s helpering or whatever you need,” Emily said. A shriek tore through the background of Kara Miles’ end of the conversation loudly enough Brent heard it and raised an eyebrow, smirking without looking up from the logs he’d printed out from the security room.
“Maybe you should start right away,” he mouthed.
Emily nodded, agreeing it sounded like a good idea to at least offer.
“Mrs. Miles?” she said, “I’m available to come over right now, if you want to get started giving the whole thing a try.”
The woman laughed weakly. “It sounds pretty bad over here, doesn’t it? That’s just two of them! Baby is napping–how, with all this noise, I don’t know. If you’re sure you’re available, please! Come!”
Emily made arrangements for the woman to text her address and promised to be there within 15 minutes.
“My mother would have given her arm for someone like you to show up with 15 minutes of notice when Carter and I were young and crazy,” Brent said, setting the logs to the side when she’d hung up the call.
“Don’t call yourself old, Agent Nighthawk,” Emily teased over her shoulder as she exited the security room in search of a pair of sturdy and comfortable sneakers.
Brent followed. “I… didn’t know I had?”
“You referred to a time in the past when you and Carter were young and crazy, and since you’re both clearly still crazy, I can only assume you meant you’re no longer young.”
Brent guffawed. “You got me there. But don’t you think Carter is just a little crazier than I am?”
Emily said, “Hmm…” and pulled a thoughtful face as she sat down on a bench in the walk-in closet and wiggled her feet into the sneakers. Brent leaned against the doorframe, watching her.
“I think the jury’s still out on that one. I might need to see more of Carter to really answer accurately.”
“I worry what Izzy would say if you got to see more of Carter and she didn’t,” he said with mock apprehension.
“Brent!” she gave the shoelaces a strong tug and looked up at him. “Seriously– you’re such a Yenta! What makes you think Izzy has given Carter a second thought since he drove her home after the fair?”
“Are you saying she hasn’t?”
Emily, shoes tied, leaned back against the wall and folded her arms. “You’re fishing, aren’t you!”
Brent didn’t answer, but his smirk made her suspicious.
“Oh my word! Did Carter ask you to fish? Wait… Carter’s interested?” She clapped a hand over her mouth and cut off the word, “too” before it came out.
Brent looked like he knew what she’d nearly implied and his smirk deepened to the point his dimple appeared. But he said nothing.
Emily checked the time. “Oo! I gotta run.”
Why did I agree to be there so soon? I should have found out if he was planning to be here longer. I might be missing out on hang-out-with-my-favorite-spy time! She sighed inwardly. She knew she was doing the right thing.
Brent took his car key out of his pocket and spun it on his finger. “I’ll drop you off?”
Emily grinned. “That would be awesome if you have time!”
“I do,” he said with a nod.
When they got to the underground garage, Brent switched his dark SUV for a white Dodge truck with a surprising amount of dirt stuck to the fenders.
Emily got in and immediately exclaimed, “It smells familiar, somehow.”
Brent said, “Hay.”
It took her a moment to realize he meant the animal feed rather than the exclamation.
“Country girl,” he said with a wink, as the lift brought their truck up to ground level inside the small garage that was their exit.
“Okay, Nelly Olson,” Emily retorted. “But I think you’re going for Buckeye country-boy vibes since you traded the SUV.”
Brent just grinned, backing out of the garage. The door rolled down automatically as soon as they’d cleared it, and Brent pulled into the alley. Emily read off the address, and he nodded, seeming to already know how to get there.
Brent drove with one knee as the leisurely pace of the residential streets, and began unbuttoning his white button-up shirt. Emily raised her eyebrows. “What are you doing?”
“Becoming Buckeye country-boy,” he said. Luckily, the semi-casual Sharp Spy look and the Country Boy look have something in common.
“Dark jeans,” Emily guessed.
“Yep, and short-sleeved, white undershirts. Sharp Spy wears them under button-ups and Country Boy just… wears them.”
Emily had to laugh. “You’re actually totally right.”
By the time they pulled up across from the small home the Millers lived in, Brent’s simple wardrobe transformation was complete, and Emily had neatly the folded the discarded button-up and stowed it under the truck’s bench seat.
Brent put the truck in Park and turned to her. “Ready?”
“Yes,” she said. “But you aren’t quite.”
His eyes twinkled. “Let’s see if we’re thinking I missed the same thing.”
She abruptly reached acrosss and roughed up his black hair. She leaned back and regarded her work critically. It was now the opposite of slick and had that intentionally touseled look a slightly-fashion-conscious country boy might try. Her eyes drifted to Brent’s face and she couldn’t help giggling.
“Okay, you can turn off the smolder now. Sheesh.” She opened her door and stepped out and then around the truck.
“Smolder? What smolder?” Brent said, leaning one elbow out his open window. “That’s just my face, baby-doll.” He leaned into the last word with a drawl.
Emily rolled her eyes. “You’re going to win the crazy award if you keep this up, mister.”
“But really,” he half-whispered, “am I convincing? As a local, I mean. You’d know.”
She smiled. “You almost have me convinced. A little less drawl, maybe? This is Arizona, not Texas, after all.”
He gave her a salute. “Call me for a ride when you’re done here. I’ll be in the general area.”
She nodded and turned. The door of the Millers’ house was open and Kara was holding back the twins from rushing outside.
“She’s coming, boys! Be patient. Let her say bye to her boyfriend without you mobbing her!”
Emily thought she heard Brent chuckle behind her as she crossed the street and headed up the walk to the house.
“Hello,” she said, grinning broadly at the twins and then at their mother. “Do you have sidewalk chalk?” She directed the question to one of the boys. They immediately stopped straining to get past their mother’s arms and disappeared into the house at high speed.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” Emily said.
Kara rolled her eyes fondly, stepping aside to let her in. “Thank you so much for coming so fast. Your ride is cute!” She grinned mischievously at Emily.
“Oh, he’s not–” Emily began, “–we’re not–“
“So that’s how it is. Well, don’t string the poor guy along too long. He seems nice and chivalrous, and those guys are hard to find. Gotta snap ’em up when you can!”
Screams of “I wanna show her!” and “No, I got them first! My turn!” erupted somewhere further into the house.
Kara changed the subject yet again. “It’s all a competition,” she said with a sigh. “Good luck.” They reached the messy kitchen where the twins were both holding onto a basket of sidewalk chalk. “Boys, Mommy’s going to try and get the laundry put away before Baby wakes up. Take Miss Emilia out to the back patio and play nicely. And listen.”
“You all can just call me Emmy,” Emily said. “I don’t really go by Emilia too much.”
Really, never, considering it’s a fake identity!