Numbers Page 58

He spun. ’’You were mine!’’

She nodded. ’’Always.’’ She took a step closer. Breeze tried to hold her back by gripping her arm but she tugged free. ’’Stay out of this. Please. This is between him and me.’’

He glanced at Breeze. He saw sadness in her face, and understanding at the tragedy of what had been their past. She held his gaze, seeming to judge his mood. She wanted reassurances that he wouldn\ attack. He knew that, sensed it.

’’I\d never,’’ he swore.

Breeze backed up. ’’Torrent? Jinx? Hallway, now. We\ll be right outside the cracked door but close enough to come in here if needed.’’

Jinx moved. ’’I have to make a call.’’

He was going to share his and Candi\s history. It was procedure. Hero knew that. The NSO watched out for their own.

Torrent bristled. ’’I think one of us should stay closer.’’

Breeze growled. ’’They don\ need us here at this moment. Get to the door.’’

Torrent stared at him, looking grim.

’’I won\ hurt her,’’ Hero swore. He\d already done that once. The image of her lying in a pool of blood was still the thing of his nightmares.

Torrent hesitated a second more but then left with Breeze and Jinx. They didn\ fully close the door. He finally allowed himself to look at Candi. She watched him with deep sorrow. He could relate.

’’I understand.’’ They were difficult words to speak, but the adult in him won out over the youthful, heartbroken male he\d once been. ’’I might have done the same to save you, if I\d been forced to decide.’’

’’Can you forgive me?’’

He answered truthfully. ’’I don\ know. It\s still a raw wound. I am sorry you suffered.’’

She reached up and wiped at her tears. ’’Can I hold you?’’

’’No.’’ He couldn\ allow her to get that close.

She reacted as if he\d struck her, actually flinching. He hated having that effect on her, but didn\ think he could withstand her touch. There were too many painful memories attached to it. He was still digesting that she wasn\ dead and the full knowledge of what had happened that day she\d stepped into his room with the stench of a male coming from her. It had totally masked her scent, strong enough that he\d known she\d been mounted. She had belonged to another instead of him. At least, that\s what he\d believed she\d come to tell him.

’’I need time.’’

’’Time?’’ Her expression changed to one of raw anger. ’’How long has it been since we saw each other? Do you know? There was no sense of time where I\ve been, but I know years have passed. I see it in your face, and my own. We\ve aged so much.’’ She took a ragged breath. ’’They stole our future together. I hate time. It passes so slowly. Every second seems like a minute. Every minute, a week. Every week, a month. Every year, an eternity. I\m right here. We\ e alive. You\ e in front of me. Don\ do this.’’

’’Do what?’’

’’We\ e alive,’’ she repeated. ’’Nothing is stopping us from being together. It\s all we ever wanted.’’ She stepped closer. ’’I\m right here.’’

’’Everything has changed,’’ he whispered, almost wishing it wasn\ true.

She staggered a little. He tensed, wanting to go to her, but held back when she stabilized her balance. An agonized whimper came from her, the hurt reflected on her face, in her eyes.

’’You share your space with a female?’’

She thought he was in a relationship. ’’No.’’

’’Have you mounted females?’’

He debated answering, not wanting to hurt her. He knew that kind of pain and had lived with the memory of betrayal. It was hellish to feel the burn of jealousy and that kind of rage, to know another had touched what belonged to him.

His silence seemed to tell her what words couldn\ . She spun away and hugged her middle, bending a little as if it caused her physical pain. He found himself halfway across the room before he brought his need to console her under wraps. He backed up, his hands clenching into fists.

’’I thought you were dead. Dr. C told me I killed you.’’

’’Of course.’’ Her whisper came out so softly that he barely heard it.

Guilt and regret mingled, knowing of the suffering she must feel, but he couldn\ handle it so he stuck to talking about the past. ’’The chain...’’ He shuddered at the memory of all that blood after she fell. ’’I just wanted to get to you. I didn\ mean for it to strike your head.’’

She reached up and touched the old scar, and then quickly dropped that arm to hug her middle again. ’’I know you didn\ mean to do that. You wanted my throat.’’

He flinched. ’’I did.’’ He wouldn\ deny it. ’’I wake up in a cold sweat often, wondering what I\d have done if I\d reached you. I just know for certain what I did when you fell and I saw your blood.’’

’’Did it help you heal?’’

He snarled.

She spun, looking at him.

’’Is that what you think? That I watched you bleed with satisfaction?’’

’’It was your right.’’

’’I lost the ability to think.’’ It was an easy admission. ’’They took the only thing I cared about and my mind couldn\ take it.’’

’’You wanted to kill me. I understood. I still do.’’

’’I threw myself on the floor to reach you since my leg chains wouldn\ allow anything else, and dragged you closer, begging the technicians to get help. I\ve never been so afraid in my life. I put pressure on the wound, trying to stop the bleeding. I would have died to exchange places with you. I prayed to that god you told me about that they\d be able to fix you so you\d be well. The sight of you on that floor bleeding killed my rage. It gave me fear and loathing of what I\d done. Not one day has passed where I have found peace or forgiveness for believing I\d killed you.’’

’’Until now. I\m alive.’’

’’I\m glad.’’

’’You would never harm a female.’’

He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. ’’I\ve killed females.’’

He heard her sharp intake of breath. It was his burden of guilt to bear for the rest of his life. Candi being alive was just one less, but there were others.

’’I don\ believe you.’’

He met her beautiful gaze. ’’Some of the techs took me from Mercile to another place. It was a very dark time in my life. They brought me a human female for a breeding experiment. The doctor in charge knew of our past and figured I\d accept one since I was raised with you. They were hurting her. I could hear her screams from where I was kept. They injected her with drugs that would make her more fertile and then brought her to me. She was hysterical, hurting herself trying to get away from me by smashing her body against the bars. I felt the monster they claimed me to be.’’ He paused. ’’I didn\ do it because I hated humans or that female. I snapped her neck.’’

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