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“I might consider that, except for one thing.”

“And what’s that?”

“I wanted you before you were the only human female in my life.”

This threw her, and he took advantage, placing both his hands lightly on her shoulders. The warmth from his palms made her realize that she’d been cold without recognizing it. She shivered.

“Remember when I told you that I’d never asked a woman out on a train before? That was kind of an understatement. On average, it takes me about three weeks of fairly regular interaction – along with an embarrassing amount of encouragement from the girl – before I work up the nerve to ask someone to go for a casual coffee. But from the second I saw your face, I was willing to leap miles outside my comfort zone to make sure I saw it again.”

She shook her head. “Daniel, I roofied you. You were high on a chemical compound with manifestations similar to Ecstasy.”

“Not then, I wasn’t. I remember. I felt the difference before and after you ‘shocked’ me. That was when things got confusing. And before the drug, I was already in neck-deep. I was trying to figure out how I was going to get off at your stop without looking like a stalker.”

She had no answer. His physical proximity was becoming disorienting. He still held her loosely, bending in slightly so that his face was closer to hers.

It wasn’t until this moment that she began to really consider his words. She’d written off everything he’d said and done since the kidnapping as aftershocks from the trauma. She’d analyzed him like a subject, always separating herself from the equation. Because none of it was about her. And all of it was within normal parameters for what he’d been through.

She tried to remember the last time a man had looked at her this way, and she came up empty.

For the past three years, every person she’d met, male or female, had been a potential source of danger. For the six years before that, as she’d just excruciatingly explained, she’d been anathema to every man she’d interacted with. Which took her all the way back to college and medical school and the few brief relationships that had never included much romance. She was a scientist first, even then, and the men she’d formed attachments to had been the same. Their relationships were born from massive amounts of time logged in together and very specific interests that 99.99 percent of the populace couldn’t begin to grasp. Each time, they’d settled for each other by default. No wonder it had never amounted to much.

And none of them had ever worn this expression. Wonder and fascination mixed with something electric as he gazed at her face… her battered, swollen face. For the first time, she felt mortified about her mangled appearance for an entirely vain reason. Her hands had been hanging limply at her sides. Now she raised one and covered as much as she could, hiding like a child.

“I’ve put some thought into this,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. “I know what I’m saying.”

She just shook her head.

“Of course, all of that is moot if you don’t feel a similar way. I’ve been a little overconfident tonight.” He paused. “Given that we haven’t been speaking the same language at all, have we? I’ve been misreading you.”

He paused again like he was waiting for an answer, but she had no idea what to say.

“What do you see when you look at me?” he asked.

She lowered her hand an inch and glanced up at him, at the same perplexingly honest face she’d been trying to understand from the beginning. What kind of a question was that? There were too many answers.

“I don’t know how to respond to that.”

His eyes narrowed for a moment, considering. She wished he would take a step back so that she could think more clearly. Then he seemed to brace himself, squaring his shoulders for some kind of blow.

“Might as well get everything out in the open. Answer this instead: What’s the very worst thing you see when you look at me?”

The honest answer popped out before she could think it through. “A liability.”

She saw how harshly the word landed. Now he gave her the space she’d just wished for, and she regretted it. Why was the room so cold?

He nodded to himself as he backed away.

“That’s fair, that’s completely fair. I’m an idiot, clearly. I can’t forget I’ve put you in danger. Also, the fact that —”

“No!” She took a hesitant step toward him, anxious to be clear. “That’s not what I meant.”

“You don’t have to be kind. I know I’m useless in all this.” He gestured vaguely toward the door, toward the world outside that was trying to kill them both.

“You’re not. Being a normal person is not a bad thing. You’ll learn all the rest. I was talking about… leverage.” She couldn’t help herself – his expression was just so openly devastated. She took another step toward him and grabbed one of his big, warm hands with both of her little icy ones. It made her feel better when the word leverage replaced the pain in his eyes with confusion. She hurried to explain. “You remember what Kevin and I were saying about leverage? About how you’re the leverage the Agency needed to get him to expose himself?”

“Yes, that makes me feel so much better than useless.”

“Let me finish.” She took a deep breath. “They’ve never had anything on me. Barnaby was my only family. I didn’t have some sister with a couple of kids and a house in the suburbs that the department could threaten to blow up. There was no one I cared about. Lonely, yes, but I was also free. It was only myself I had to keep alive.”