“Let me have tonight,” he said, and his eyes never wavered from hers.
She nodded. Hesitant, a bit afraid, but…
A man died right in front of me today. His blood coated my skin. I’m taking this. Taking him. Holding on, for as long as I can.
She crawled under the covers, pausing only long enough to toss away her shirt. He was naked. She’d sleep that way, too.
Luke bent toward the bed.
He froze, and she saw the tightening near his eyes. The flash of—what was that? Pain? Anger?
She reached under the pillow near him and felt the hard butt of her weapon. Grimacing, she pulled out her gun. “Maybe we should move this.” Tonight, she’d be safe.
He took the gun and stared at it. At her. Then asked, “Should I leave the light on?”
And he nearly broke her heart.
Because he knew.
She wasn’t controlled. She wasn’t Ice. She was weak. Afraid. She needed a light when she slept, like a damn child. The big, bad agent, needing a shield against the night.
But that light had let her survive through the darkest hours.
“I’ll leave it on,” he said as his knee pushed onto the top of the mattress.
“No.” Dammit, she could do this. “Turn it off. There’s no need for the light tonight.” She had him. The demons could go screw off.
Luke left her. He turned off the light and plunged them into darkness. The covers rustled when he climbed into bed beside her, then she felt the hot brush of his flesh against her. His muscled, hair-covered legs. His steely arms.
He pulled her close. Held her against his heart.
Beating so fast.
“You scared me.” The words drifted in the dark room. A stark admission from him. “I wanted to shoot the bastard. I was so afraid he’d kill you—”
He broke off and his arms tightened. His heart thudded against her. “Don’t do that to me again, baby. Just don’t.”
Emotion there. Real and painful. Once again, she didn’t know what to say, but she turned her head and kissed him. Not on his mouth but right on that strong jaw. “I’m here.” It was all she could think to tell him. “I’m safe.” Until the next time.
In their line of work, there was always a next time. He knew that, just as she did.
His breath expelled on a rush but he didn’t ease his hold.
Silence. Then, “A long time ago, I watched someone I cared about die in front of me.”
Monica tensed against him.
“I tried to help her, but there wasn’t a damn thing I could do. She died—there wasn’t a damn thing I could do.”
So much pain there, and fury. A rage that cut to the bone. She was well-acquainted with a rage like that.
“I’m not going through that ever again.” His hold tightened, became painful. “Get used to it. We’re a team now, and nothing’s gonna happen to you again, not while I’m there to save you.”
Save you. She rolled a bit, shifting against him. “Don’t you know you can’t save everyone?” A lesson she’d faced a lifetime ago. Sometimes, you can’t even save yourself.
“I’m not like you,” he told her. “I didn’t join the FBI to stop the killers. I joined for the victims.”
To save them.
She put her head on his chest. Listened to his heartbeat. “Who was she?” Monica knew she shouldn’t ask. She didn’t want to hear about the lover he’d lost, the one that had pain echoing in his voice. The one that had made him the man he was. She didn’t—
Her eyes squeezed shut. “I-I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for your loss. Wasn’t that what she always had to say? But, God, she was sorry—for all the victims and families she’d seen, and for Luke.
Her Luke. The Boy Scout with the hard edge, trying to protect the world.
She stared at the darkness, listened to the steady beat against her ear, and didn’t speak again. He didn’t want to know that he’d lose his fight, and right then, she didn’t have the heart to tell him.
She lay stiffly within his arms. So unsure. Nervous. But the exhaustion pulled at her. Heavy and deep and after a time, she slowly drifted away.
Her head on his chest. Her legs tangled with his. Bodies close.
Together, in the darkness.
No light tonight.
He stared at Agent Davenport’s room, frowning. She’d broken her pattern. Why? Because she thought she’d taken him down? Foolish. Such a bad mistake.
One he hadn’t expected from her.
But she didn’t have her light on, and Monica Davenport shouldn’t have been so comfortable in the dark. Not her.
He stared at that small room. What was different?
What do you fear?
He’d watched her for so long now. Studied her.
Tonight, he’d learned that she didn’t fear death. She’d stared down the barrel of a smoking gun and hadn’t flinched.
Brave? Crazy? Maybe she was both.
But there had been one chink in her armor. One thing he’d noticed. She’d covered the other agent, jumped to his defense so quickly. Too quickly.
Shadows moving together. He’d seen them before.
Did Davenport care about the man? Probably not. Because Davenport was broken.
Just like me.
Yet she’d still defended her partner and he figured she’d f**ked him.
Hmmm… perhaps an experiment was in order. And experiments—they were just so much fun.
He began to whistle as he pulled his hood closer to his face and walked back into the night.
The darkness was such a sweet lover. Maybe Monica was starting to understand that.
She slept in his arms, nestled against him. Soft, warm, almost trusting. As trusting as he’d ever seen her.
But Luke couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Monica, and he saw Jeremy Jones with that gun raised.
The game could have ended so differently. Jones could have shot her, instead of taking his own life.
Monica had hesitated on the kill. Why?
And why had he felt like he was shattering as he screamed for her to move?
The sweet, lavender scent of her shampoo teased his nose. She breathed, slow and easy, comfortable now against him.
She’d never let him stay before. But then, he’d known better than to ask. Because in the past, the answer, the get the hell out had been clear in her eyes.
From now on, he had no intention of getting the hell out.
His fingers brushed over her shoulder. He felt the faint rise on her skin, a scar. She’d had it before they met. He’d touched it the first time they’d made love, and she’d flinched.