Code Blue

Fresh out of the training academy for the National Intelligence Agency, Lexi Dupont is thrilled when she’s tasked with her first undercover assignment: get close to Luke Hemmings, son of the leader of the country’s most infamous crime syndicate. It seems simple enough and Lexi is determined to complete her mission, but the fact that Luke is ten cups of charming and gorgeous is bound to make the job difficult.


2. Lexi vs. The First Meeting

This entire situation was so strange. I’d managed to go my entire life without living in the same room as another person, yet here I was, moving into a dorm room.

It was actually bigger than I thought it would be. Two twin sized beds were pushed against opposite walls with small wooden desks at their feet. The closets were small, but the large dressers with attached mirrors made up for it.

As I walked in, I noted that one side of the room already looked lived in, meaning my roommate was around and could appear at any moment. Which meant it was time to put my game face on.

I heaved the two large duffel bags I was carrying onto the stripped down bed, whipping around when I heard a noise at the door and laughing at the sight of Evan panting as he stepped into the room with a large box of various accessories.

“I wasn’t told this was going to be a workout,” he complained.

As I continued to laugh, I stepped forward to take some of the weight of the box. “Sorry. I had no idea we’d have to climb up three flights of stairs.”

We heaved the box onto the bed, both letting out staggered breaths once it was done and I smiled at Evan in admiration.

We had spent nearly every waking hour of the past two weeks together as he drilled the details of my cover story into my brain until they were second nature. In the process, I’d learned quite a bit about Evan. For example, I now knew that he did the most spot on impersonations of anyone ever. The one he did of Jenkins had me laughing for a solid ten minutes.

Of course, I now knew everything there was to know about Luke Hemmings as well. Well, everything that was public knowledge. Which, considering his father’s infamy, was very little.

It didn’t really seem like anyone on campus had any idea about Luke’s criminal connections. According to the information Evan had gathered through various methods of hacking into the university computer system, Luke was an exceptional student as well as the head of many clubs and organizations. Definitely not crime family material.

But maybe that was his strategy. Or I just knew nothing about crime families.

“Do you need help unpacking?” Evan asked, glancing warily to the duffel bags on the bed.

“No, thanks,” I smiled wryly, deciding to save him the trouble, “I’m all good here. Where’s your place, by the way?”

The agency had paid for Evan to rent out an apartment nearby so that I had somewhere to go for my daily debriefing; a term that now sounded incredibly dirty.

I pursed my lips as I unzipped the first bag and he responded. “Just off campus. I put the address in your phone.”

“Cool,” I nodded, pulling out a stack of t-shirts. “I’ll come find you later, then.”

“For sure,” he replied, shoving his fingers into the pockets of his basketball shorts and rocking forward onto the toes of his beat up trainers. “Day one objectives: get to know the campus. Part of being a student is actually having an idea of where everything is: for example, you should definitely go check out the student union. All the organizations on campus have tables there and you should stop by. Particularly the Leadership in Business one.”

I quirked an eyebrow, turning to shove the stack of shirts into the second dresser drawer. “Any particular reason?”

Evan raised one side of his mouth in a smirk. “Let’s just say the president might be someone you’d like to meet.”

“Noted,” I nodded, trying not to laugh because Evan had no idea how to be subtle.

He smiled at me wryly. “And I know Jenkins said not to have fun, but since I’ll be living vicariously through you, you have to promise me you’ll go to at least one party with free flowing alcohol.”

Laughing, I flashed him a smile as I shut the dresser drawer with my hip. “Will do.”

Footsteps in the doorway caused us to both turn and tense immediately. We reached for the guns that would usually stay in holsters on our hips only to remember that we weren’t allowed to have weapons on campus.

It didn’t matter anyway, because the person who appeared in the doorway didn’t need to be shot.

She was tall and toned, like an athlete, with stringy auburn hair that hung at her shoulders. I smiled widely and stepped forward. “Hello. I think we’re roommates”

“Hi,” she smiled back, her tone immediately friendly, “I’m Quinn.”

“Alexandria,” I replied with a small wave. “But no one really calls me that. You can call me Allie or Lexi.”

“Nice to meet you,” she nodded, her eyes flicking to Evan appreciatively.

“Oh, this is my brother,” I said, gesturing to Evan and using the backstory we’d created to make his presence more explainable, “Evan.”

“Hello,” she smiled at him shyly, batting her eyelashes and biting her bottom lip. “Do you go here as well?”

Evan looked flustered, because apparently he wasn’t used to being hit on. Which was actually surprising, because he was pretty cute and really easy to talk to.

“No,” he stammered, “I work and live close by, though, so I’d thought I’d come help Lexi move in.”

“That’s sweet of you,” her smile widened, the intensity of her gaze increasing as well.

“It is, isn’t it?” he beamed and I nudged him with my elbow because him getting flirty with the coeds could only end in disaster. “Right,” he coughed. “I’m going to head out. Lexi, I’ll see you later. Quinn, it was a pleasure to meet you.”

“Oh, you don’t have to leave,” Quinn protested.

Evan almost looked tempted to stay, but he knew better. “I really do. See you guys.”

He gave me a quick hug and whispered, “Game face on,” before shooting Quinn a smile and walking out the door.

There was a pause and then Quinn bit her lip as she looked at me earnestly. “This probably sounds extremely forward, seeing as we just met, but your brother is gorgeous.”

“Um, thanks,” I laughed awkwardly. Prolonging this conversation could lead Quinn to think that she and Evan could possibly start something and I knew Jenkins would absolutely murder both of us if that happened. “So, what are you studying?”

If she was bothered by the sudden change in subject, she didn’t indicate it. “Graphic design. You?”

“Economics and Finance,” I replied, trying not to wince.

Quinn let out a low whistle. “Fancy. Have you always gone here?”

“No,” I admitted, “I’m new this year.” I recognized the perfect segue into the next thing on my to do list. “Actually, I was thinking about checking out that activity fair on campus. See if I can find something to get involved in. Want to come?”

“Sure,” she chirped, looking genuinely happy that she’d been invited.

Look at that. I’d made a friend.

We actually talked pretty easily as we walked from our room to the student union where the activity fair was being held. Well, actually, Quinn did most of the talking. It turned out she was one of those people that could have a conversation with herself, which was actually perfect because it kept me from having to reveal too many personal details.

When we reached the correct building, I scanned my eyes over the various tables lining the inner perimeter of the circular atrium, searching for a particular face. I’d spent the past two weeks studying pictures of Luke from various angles so I could recognize him any situation, so I knew it was him as soon as my eyes locked on the top of a blonde head as it looked down at a piece of paper on a large plastic table.

I paused as I thought of my plan of action. Just as Evan had said, he was standing beneath a banner that read ‘Leadership in Business’ in bright red letters. Considering we were technically studying the same thing, the best option was probably just to walk up to him and pretend as though I had interest in joining his club.

Before I could put this plan into action, however, he lifted his head and smiled at a group of students as they walked by.

His smile is what made me freeze. It was wide and bright, causing his eyes to crinkle and showing off a set of even, white teeth. Despite the fact that I knew all about Luke’s family, the vibe I got from him was definitely not one of sinister intent.

He literally just looked like a university student, dressed in a navy shirt with the club name printed across the front and black jeans. That wasn’t part of the plan. All of this would be so much easier if he played and looked the part of a malicious mafia member.

Sighing, I decided I had to make a move at some point, so I turned to Quinn to tell her I was heading to that table only to find her smirking at me.

“What?” I asked.

She glanced towards Luke and crossed her arms over her chest. “You’ve been here one day and you’re already checking out the most desired boy in school? Way to go big.”

“I was not,” I protested, scolding myself for being obvious.

Quinn rolled her eyes. “Please, I saw you lusting after Luke Hemmings.”

The fact that she knew him was a huge bonus. I raised my eyebrows and lowered my voice. “Do you know him?”

She laughed and shook her head. “Not really. I mean, everybody here knows him; his family is so loaded that I think they named a building after them. And he’s the president of like 15 different clubs. I had a class with him last semester, but we only talked like once.”

No wonder no one at this school seemed to know anything about the Hemmings family. They probably paid the school enough money to look the other way.

“Are you gonna go talk to him?” she asked.

I paused as I built up the courage and glanced in his direction again, only to have my eyes widen in horror when they met a deep blue gaze. He lifted his eyebrows just slightly, tilting his head to the side as though trying to read my mind. I briefly wondered if it was possible that he knew exactly what I was thinking until he twisted his lips into a smirk and my mind cleared entirely.

“Shit,” I whispered, turning sideways to make it seem like Quinn and I were in the midst of a deep conversation. The fact that I was now hiding the rapidly growing flush in my cheeks was also a plus. “I think he just caught me staring. Is he still looking?”

Quinn slyly looked over and shook her head, trying to keep from laughing out loud. “No, he’s talking to someone. You really need to work on this whole being subtle thing.”

“I know,” I sighed. I sucked at flirting. Not that I was even supposed to be flirting, but apparently one look into those baby blues had sent me down a train of thought that was not at all platonic. “Ok, I’m going to do this.”

Reaching out, she squeezed my arm and nodded firmly. “Good luck.”

I laughed softly and turned towards the table, relieved that he was now busy talking to someone else who had stopped by because it kept me from having to engage in any sort of awkward staring contest.

As I walked, I remembered what Evan had told me about being in the field: be myself. That seemed like a strange instruction at the time, but lying about your interests and beliefs when you’re already lying about your identity just made things complicated. So I was told to be honest when I could, because Luke could most likely spot a cover story from a mile away. Apparently my inexperience was an asset in this particular situation, because it allowed me to appear friendly and open, as opposed to someone who had previous experience with dangerous situations.

He was still talking to another student when I finally reached the booth, so I busied myself by studying one of the various brightly colored flyers sitting on the table. This club basically sounded like a way for students to make connections in the business world that could potentially help them get jobs in the future. Connections of which I’m sure Luke had an abundance.

I didn’t mean to get sucked in, but the flyer was well organized and listed some pretty interesting events, so I didn’t notice him standing in front of me until he spoke.

“You’re new.”

I jerked my head upwards and was frozen by that deep blue gaze. Up close, he looked even more the epitome of a college student, especially now that he’d pulled a light blue beanie over his hair and I could clearly notice the small black ring piercing lower lip.  His gaze was steady, his eyebrows quirked upwards in amusement.

“Excuse me?” I asked, taken aback by the fact that he’d made a statement rather than asked me a question.

His eyes sparkled. Like legitimately twinkled. Like fucking stars. How unnerving.

“You’re new,” he repeated, laying his hands on the table and leaning forward slightly. “To the school. I’ve never seen you before.”

“Do you know everyone?” I replied, wondering how that could even be possible. Or maybe he was super paranoid and did background checks on everyone that was registered for classes.

“No,” he laughed, a sound which inexplicably caused my entire body to warm. “But it’s not that big a school. And if you’re coming to this table, it means you’re studying some form of business, which means I most likely would have noticed you in at least one of my classes if you weren’t new.”

That was a very logical deduction. Or a creepy one. I couldn’t tell.

“You can’t possibly be able to remember the faces of everyone you’ve ever seen,” I replied.

“Maybe I have a really good memory,” he suggested.

“Or maybe that’s a line,” I shot back.

His eyebrows arched upwards, his smirk deepening in amusement. “You think I’m flirting with you?”

He wasn’t? Shit, I really was bad at this.

“No,” I said quickly, racking my brain for an appropriate cover up but coming up empty.

Luckily, he didn’t seem eager to draw out my embarrassment, as he stood up straight and held out a hand. “I’m Luke.”

I nodded, sighing a little in relief and raising my eyebrows in interest when I noticed a tattoo of what looked like a feather on the inside of his wrist. “Alexandria.”

He shook my hand firmly, the grip of someone who knew that a handshake could tell you everything you ever needed to know about a person, his eyes following my gaze to his tattoo when he let go. “Bet you can’t guess where my other one is.”

My eyes shot up to meet his, widening when I found him smirking at me as he watched me desperately fight off a blush. To be honest, everywhere I was imagining was entirely inappropriate.

A presence beside me drew my attention, and I nearly kissed Quinn when I turned to see that she’d come to my rescue.

“Hey, Lexi,” she greeted, glancing at Luke as she squeezed my upper arm in reassurance. “Do you mind if we drop by the Graphic Designer’s Association table before we go to lunch? I told them I’d make an appearance.”

“Sure,” I smiled at her gratefully. Parting my lips, I started to introduce Quinn to Luke because that seemed like the polite thing to do, but was caught off guard when he spoke first.

“Quinn, right?” he said, giving her a warm, friendly smile, “We had European History together.”

Her eyebrows shot up, apparently as surprised as me that he remembered. “Yeah, we did. You borrowed my pencil once and never gave it back.”

He laughed before noticing that her expression was entirely serious. I covered my mouth with my hand to keep from giggling as he took off his beanie and ran a hand quickly through his hair before pulling it down to his ears once more. “Sorry about that. I’ll get you a new one.”

Nodding once, she turned to me, quirking an eyebrow, her eyes indicating that I could thank her later. “Ready to go?”

“Yep,” I replied, shooting Luke an apologetic smile. “Nice to meet you.”

We turned to leave and I almost let out a sigh of relief before I heard my name being called.

“Hey, Lexi!”

Turning, I lifted my head to see Luke grinning at me. “Yeah?”

Smiling sweetly, he extended a brightly colored flyer in my direction. “You’ll come to our first meeting, right?”

Sighing, I stepped back towards him to take the flyer, realizing going to the meeting would give me a reason to observe him further. I reached out to grab hold of the paper, but he pulled it towards his torso, forcing me to stand face to face with him in order to do so.

“Promise you’ll come?” he asked, batting his eyelashes innocently, which was eye rolling because I was willing to bet big money that he was far from innocent.

Still, he looked adorable, his blue eyes large and clear, so I shot him a small smile and nodded. “Of course.”

His smile widened and he leaned towards me, shifting to the side so he could whisper in my ear. I held my breath, hoping he couldn’t hear my heart pounding in my chest. “Can’t wait to see you again.”

Fully ripened strawberries could probably rival the color of my cheeks as I took a step backwards. Making me flustered apparently amused him a great deal, because his lips stretched even further upwards and he dropped one eye in a wink.

“Now I’m flirting with you.”

Fuck. I was in over my head.

Nodding, I raised a hand in a wave and hurried away, dragging Quinn with me, determined not to look back because I was certain he was staring after me in amusement.

“Geez, you look like a tomato,” Quinn observed. “What did he say to you?”

“Probably nothing that actually required this level of embarrassment,” I admitted. “I’m just a little overwhelmed.”

“It’s the eyes isn’t it?” she said sympathetically. “They’re hypnotic. They suck you in until you don’t even remember your own name. At least, that’s what happened to me the one time I talked to him.”

I was a little more relaxed, laughing as we walked out of the student union and Quinn guided me towards the dining hall. “So he didn’t actually steal your pencil?”

“I actually don’t remember,” Quinn shrugged. “All I remember is him asking to borrow a pencil. One look into those eyes and it was like someone had deleted the portion of my brain that forms actual sentences.”

“Good to know he doesn’t just have that effect on me,” I grinned, deciding that if this operation was going to work, I really needed to learn how to handle myself around Luke.

“Nope,” Quinn chuckled and shook her head, “I’m pretty sure he has that effect on anyone. And he knows it too. He managed to talk our super strict European History professor, Dr. Holland, into extending the due date of his end of term paper, something that has never been done in the history of Dr. Holland’s career at this school.”

“He made her weak at the knees, did he?” I asked wryly.

Quinn shot me a pointed look. “Dr. Holland is a 65 year old man with a potbelly and a comb over.”

“Oh,” I said quietly, wondering how much of Luke’s influence had to do with his personality and how much to do with his sphere of influence.

We arrived at the dining hall and Quinn changed the subject to which professors were the ones to watch out for. I actually participated in the conversation this time, deciding that living with her for the next few months might actually be fun. After we were done eating, I told her that I needed to go take care of some personal stuff and she didn’t question me, which I considered a good sign for the future of our relationship.

I got directions to Evan’s place from the address he’d put into my phone and walked briskly, knowing he’d want to hear every detail of my interaction with Luke. Logically, it made more sense for me to wear an earpiece and hidden camera, so I wouldn’t necessarily have no report back to Evan: he would get a live feed on everything that was happening.

But we were dealing with real, highly trained, and highly observant people. Chances were that Luke would notice anything irregular, so it was better not to take the chance that my cover would get blown. For now, I was supposed to be gaining his trust and getting what information I could. If I discovered something that the agency could act on, only then would they bring in a team to the dirty work.

I arrived at the door of a small town house just off the side of campus a few minutes later and gave the door three short raps. It swung open and Evan smiled widely as he gestured for me to enter.

“So?” he prodded as I sank down onto a worn leather couch, “Day one objectives complete?”

“Yep,” I sighed, “I made first contact.”

“And?” he quirked an eyebrow and sat down beside me. “How’d it go?”

“He’s so….normal.”

Evan’s brow furrowed. “What does that mean?”

I shrugged. I didn’t really know what else to say. “Just, normal. Like, he seems as though he’s a regular university student. I got no indications that he had any sort of criminal connection.”

Nodding, Evan sighed and patted my knee. “Well, it was only your first meeting. And although I’m a big believer in first impressions being valuable, when it comes to people in criminal lifestyles, everything isn’t always what it seems.”

“I get that,” I nodded. “Maybe he’s just good at seeming normal. I’ll have to spend a little more time with him and see.”

Evan didn’t say anything at first, allowing his growing smirk and mischievously twinkling eyes to do the talking.

I rolled my own eyes. “What?”

“Nothing,” he replied happily, “I’m appreciative of how much you don’t mind spending time with Luke.”

“It’s essential to the operation, Evan,” I shot back, though even I knew that wasn’t entirely the truth. He was right. I was intrigued by Luke and I did want to spend more time with him. The fact that I got to do so under the guise of work was just a perk.

“Sure,” Evan laughed, “Just don’t get too attached.”

“I won’t,” I promised. Just because I found Luke attractive and interesting didn’t mean I had any intention of becoming emotionally attached to someone who had the capability to make the country more dangerous.

“Good,” he nodded. He stared at me for a moment before he burst out laughing.

“What?” I asked, completely bewildered.

He held his stomach as he lay back against the couch and shook with giggles. “You have to go to class tomorrow.”

I sighed as I sank back against the couch and realized he was right. Being undercover as a student meant I had to attend classes and do homework and take exams and write essays on top of trying to get close to a member of a crime family without looking suspicious.

Let the games begin.

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