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She could imagine the long array of faces parading through his mind right now. “That part wasn’t so hard for me. It sounds pretty pathetic, but Barnaby was my only real friend. My work was my entire life, and I wasn’t allowed to talk about my work to anyone besides Barnaby. I lived a very isolated existence. There were others around… for example, the underlings who prepped subjects. They knew what was happening in a general sense but had none of the classified details about the information we were trying to retrieve. And, well, they were terrified of me. They knew what my job was. So we didn’t chat much. There were a few lab assistants who performed a variety of duties outside the action rooms, but they didn’t know what we were doing and I had to be careful not to say anything to tip them off. Occasionally, people from the different agencies visited individually to monitor a particular interrogation, but I had very little contact with them except to receive instructions about the angles I should cover. Mostly they watched from behind one-way glass, and Carston gave me the information. I used to think Carston was sort of my friend, but he did just try to kill me… So I can’t compare it to what you’re losing. Obviously, I didn’t have that much of a life to lose. Even before I was recruited… I guess I just don’t bond with other humans like a normal person. Like I said, pathetic.”

He smiled at her. “I haven’t noticed any deficiencies.”

“Um, thanks. Well, it’s getting late. Let me help clear this all up.”

“Sure.” He stood and stretched, then started stacking plates. She had to move quickly to grab a few things before he had efficiently made off with all of it. “But the night is still young,” he continued, “and I’m going to have to bring up the other half of our deal now.”


He laughed. His hands were full so she pulled the dishwasher open. She filled in the bottom rack while he did the top and put the bigger pieces in the sink. The chore moved quickly with both of them working in easy tandem.

“You don’t remember? It’s only been a few days, really. I’ll admit, it does seem a lot longer. It could be weeks.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He closed the dishwasher and then leaned back against the counter, folding his arms. She waited.

“Think back. Before things got… strange. You promised that if I still liked you after we had dinner together…”

He looked at her with raised eyebrows, waiting for her to fill in the blank.

Oh. He was talking about their conversation on the train. She was shocked he could refer to it so lightly. That was the last moment his life had been normal. The last moment before everything had been stolen from him. And though she hadn’t been the architect of that theft, she’d been the hand they used.

“Um. Something about a foreign film theater at the university near you, right?”

“Yes – well, but I didn’t mean for you to be quite so specific. The university theater is not exactly convenient right now. However…” He opened the cupboard behind him, reached up, and pulled something off the highest shelf. He turned back to her with a huge grin and presented a DVD case. The faded cover had a picture of a beautiful woman in a red dress and a dark, wide-brimmed hat.

“Ta-da!” he said.

“Where on earth did you get that?”

His smile got a little smaller. “Second store I went to. Thrift store. I got very lucky. This is actually a great movie.” He assessed her face. “I can read your thoughts. You’re thinking, Is there any place this idiot didn’t go? We’ll be dead by sunrise.”

“Not in so many words. And we’d be disappearing into the night in Arnie’s stolen truck right now if I thought it was that bad.”

“Still, while I’m very, very sorry for my rash behavior, I’m also quite happy I was able to find this gem. You’ll love it.”

She shook her head – not disagreeing, just wondering how things had gotten so odd in her life. One wrong move and suddenly she was committed to reading subtitles with the most kind and… uncorrupted person she’d ever met.

He stepped toward her. “You can’t say no. You made a bargain and I intend to hold you to it.”

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it. You just have to explain why exactly it is that you still like me,” she said, finishing more glumly than she’d begun.

“I think I can do that.”

He took another step forward, backing her against the island. He put his hands on the edge of the counter behind her, one on either side, and as he leaned forward, she could smell the clean, citrusy scent of his hair. He was so close, she could see that he must have shaved recently – his jaw was smooth and there was the hint of razor burn just under his chin.

Daniel’s proximity confused her, but it didn’t frighten her the way it would have with just about any other person on the planet. He wasn’t dangerous to her, she knew that. She didn’t understand what he was doing, though, even when he slowly lowered his face toward hers, his eyes starting to close. It never occurred to her that he was about to kiss her until his half-open lips were just a breath away from hers.

That realization startled her. It startled her a lot. And when she was startled, she had ingrained reactions that manifested without her conscious approval.

She ducked under his arm, spinning free. She dashed several feet away, then spun back to face the source of the alarm, sliding into a half crouch. Her hands were automatically at her waist, looking for the belt she wasn’t wearing.