Numbers Page 16

She hated the way he sounded hurt. She reached out and hesitantly placed her hand against his shoulder. ’’Mourn?’’

’’I don\ know what I was thinking. Deception is for humans.’’

’’What does that mean?’’ She felt a little alarmed by that word.

He opened his eyes and turned his head to look at her again. ’’I set the sprinklers to go off and get us wet. I hoped that if you saw me mostly undressed, you\d be attracted to me.’’

’’Why would you do that?’’ It stunned her. She wasn\ upset, just surprised and confused.

’’You make me feel good things. I wanted to hold you and see if you\d want to share se* with me.’’

It wasn\ the first time a man had hit on her, but she had to say it was the most unusual tactic anyone had ever deployed. ’’Oh.’’

’’You aren\ attracted to me. I understand.’’ Pain flashed in his eyes. ’’No female will ever wish to be my mate again.’’

’’Mate?’’ The word staggered her a little. He wasn\ just looking for a one-night stand.

He gave a firm nod. ’’We have so much in common, Dana. I\m attracted to you. I enjoy talking to you.’’

She finally recovered. ’’Those aren\ reasons to marry someone.’’

’’I mated to 139 because I was told to when they left her with me. We were happy.’’

It broke her heart and she leaned in closer, hating the pain she saw. ’’You\ e still grieving her loss. You can\ just replace one woman with another.’’

’’Is that what you believe? You\ e nothing like her.’’ He frowned. ’’You\ e human and I still want you.’’

She wasn\ sure if she should feel insulted. She let it go, not believing it was meant that way. ’’It\s just se*ual attraction. We\ e talking and growing closer. It\s normal.’’

’’You aren\ attracted to me.’’

Dana debated and then blew out a breath. ’’I am.’’

His eyes narrowed and his arms tightened around her. ’’You are?’’

’’You\ e a very handsome man, Mourn.’’

’’What else do you like about me?’’

’’Your eyes are...’’ She paused.

’’Frightening? Strangely inhuman?’’

’’Spectacular,’’ she corrected. ’’I could stare into them all day.’’

’’What about my size? Do you think I\ll bruise or crush you? I worry about that. You look delicate. I know how to be gentle.’’

’’I\m sure you could be.’’

’’I would never force you. My mate was ill for a long time. I never touched her that way, no matter how much I hurt to share se*. Her needs came first.’’

She believed that about him. ’’That makes you thoughtful.’’

’’But not se*ually appealing enough to be interested in sharing se* with me?’’

She glanced down at his chest, stomach and bulky biceps. ’’You\ e really hot.’’

’’My temperature runs higher than a human.’’

She smiled. He was kind of naïveif that was how he had interpreted her remark. ’’I mean se*y.’’ She blushed a little when she said that, but didn\ back away from telling the truth.

’’You like me too.’’ He grinned.

’’I do, but I don\ want to ruin our friendship.’’

That wiped the joy right off his expression. ’’I want more than that with you.’’

’’You\ e still grieving. I\m not a replacement for her, Mourn.’’

’’You\ e nothing like her. You talk to me with ease.’’

Questions sprang to Dana\s mind. She wanted to ask them aloud but refrained. It was an odd statement to make. She remembered him saying his wife wasn\ very talkative but did that mean they barely spoke unless they needed to? It created a bleak image of the kind of relationship they\d had.

’’You don\ look like her either.’’ He frowned again. ’’She was very tall. Your coloring is different. I don\ want you to be like her.’’

It helped that he said that. ’’You\ e just looking for a bandage to temporarily cure this pain, and I don\ want to get hurt when you realize that.’’

’’What does that mean?’’

’’I deserve to be with someone who really loves me, and is offering me a future beyond a few days or maybe months. We do this, and you\ll eventually realize that I was just the person there to get you through the worst of your grief. You\ll walk away, and I can\ take losing someone I let get that close to me. Not a second time.’’

’’Species mate for life.’’ He kept hold of her.

’’And yours died.’’ It was a gentle reminder.

He closed his eyes. She took it as a sign that her words were penetrating and reached out, caressing his chest. His skin was so warm, and it felt nice. He suddenly opened his eyes and held her gaze.

’’Wrong words. We commit to the females we mate with until one of us dies. I am willing to commit to you.’’

That stunned her. ’’You don\ even know me.’’

’’You\ e kind and sweet. We have both known loss. No one is ever going to understand me the way you do, and I understand you. Don\ you want someone to hold you at night? Someone to talk to and laugh with?’’

’’We don\ have to sleep together to do that. We could be friends.’’

’’I don\ want to be friends. I want more. Come home and live with me.’’

Paul had told her once that New Species didn\ date. That information suddenly made sense. Mourn just expected her to jump right into a serious relationship. It was insane. Nobody did that.

’’I promise to never touch another female, or want to share se* with someone else. I won\ ever leave you. You will be mine, and I will be yours. I will never hurt you, and I\ll do everything in my power to make certain you\ e happy. I\ll crave seeing your smile. I would hurt if I hurt you. It\s how Species are. Do you understand? I can\ replace your mate, but I\m far better than any human you\d have to worry about when you decide to mate again. They aren\ as honest as Species, or as loyal.’’

’’It\s not that simple.’’

’’It could be.’’ He reached up and lightly ran his fingertip along her cheek. ’’I\ve never shared se* with a human, but I promise I\ll learn how to please you. I\m determined. It will be enjoyable to figure out our differences.’’

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