Never in her life had she wanted to reach out to someone more than she did him right now.
You are not your past, Syn.
But her words wouldn’t reach him and she knew it. He was the kind of man who only believed in actions. Not lip service.
And she was going to have to betray him.
Pushing the thought aside, she followed him out of the shuttle.
In just a few minutes, they were headed down a dark, quiet street. The moon had taken refuge behind a group of clouds, and the outside landscape showed up only in spots where streetlights made tiny puddles of butter-colored light to help guide them. Vik soared up to scout the area in front and behind them, looking for anyone who might threaten them.
Wind whistled through the alleyways between the buildings with an eerie cry. Goosebumps sprang up all over her and she wished she’d thought to bring a jacket. Clenching her teeth to keep them from chattering, she stayed one step behind Syn.
“What time is it here?” she asked, her voice seeming overloud after the quiet.
“About three in the morning.”
“It’s rather creepy out here, isn’t it?”
Syn paused for a minute and looked around the deserted city streets before he shrugged. “Not really. I always preferred this time of night. It’s peaceful. Even the worst predators are usually asleep or home by this hour.” He gave her a strange look. “Except for filches. We do our best work after dark.”
He headed into an alley. She watched as he climbed to the top of a Dumpster, then he held his hand out to her. Accepting it, she allowed him to pull her up to stand beside him so that they could balance on the edge of its lip, above the garbage.
An instant later, he pulled a grappling hook out of the small black plastic pack he must have strapped to his arm while she’d slept. He shot the hook upward toward the building’s roof, where the prongs exploded and it vanished over the edge. After it landed, Syn tugged on the rope, testing the line. Her mouth went dry at the sight of his steely, cat like muscles beneath the tight bodysuit.
And before she could blink, an image of his nak*d body flashed before her eyes, sending a most inappropriate wave of desire crashing through her.
Syn wrapped the cord around his torso and looked at her. “C’mon,” he said, pulling out the thick strap he’d used to tie them together the last time they’d scaled a building. “I’ll help you up. But you’re on your own once we reach the destination.”
“No problem.” She noted the seriousness of his tone. He wasn’t the same man who’d teased her before. He hadn’t been the same since his confrontation with Caillen, and she wondered how long it would be before he returned to the Syn she’d grown to care for.
Saddened by the thought, she stepped into his arms. His embrace was cold, mechanical.
Syn’s breath caught as the heat of her body warmed his. Standing here, it was hard to let his rationale reign, especially since all the blood in his head was rushing south.
I should have never slept with her. All that had done was whet his appetite for more and make him crave things he couldn’t have.
Dreams were lies manifested by worthless desires. And the last time he’d made the mistake of giving himself over to a woman, she’d stabbed him straight through his heart. Twisted the knife and left him bleeding.
If only those wounds were fatal.
Get the map, the disc, and get her out of your life. Then he could go back to . . .
But at least he knew the rules there, and people’s misconceptions of him didn’t hurt.
She complied and they raced toward the top.
Once on the roof, he freed her. “We’ll have to vault three buildings over before we hit the right roof.”
“Do you think the Rits will be expecting us?”
He retracted the grappling hook back into its case. “I don’t know. I couldn’t get a decent sat link to check. But the good news is they can’t get one on us either.” He tapped the link in his ear. “Vik? Report.”
“I don’t see anything, boss. It looks clear, but I’m not betting on those odds.”
“Keep looking and let me know when you make them.” Syn took out his baton and faced Shahara. “If we’re lucky, which I seldom seem to be, they’ll have given up and be gone by now. But if my typical luck holds, they’ll have at least two people staking out my building. I doubt they’ll be this far back, though, and I seriously doubt they’re looking up for our approach, which is why we’re here.” He paused, then added, “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
Shahara rolled her eyes. “Great.” She just loved his optimism. It was one of her favorite things about him.
Pulling out her baton and extending it, she watched him run, then vault over the edge. He soared across the wide space like a graceful bird taking flight—like all this was second nature to him. The saddest part of all was the fact that it was second nature to him.
Her element was fighting. His was being one with the darkness around them . . .
“Go ahead,” she groused at herself. “Make it look easy. But if I fall, I swear I’ll haunt you forever.”
Which would only be fair since he was already haunting her.
With her heart lodged painfully in her throat, she took off at a run and vaulted over to the next building. Her heart didn’t beat again until she landed safely on the other side.
He shook his head at her panicked expression. “What did you say you did for a living? Play video games?”
Shahara took a deep breath and thought about where she’d like to plant her extended baton on his body. “I prefer to face my enemies on the street. In the open.” Stealth was also her friend at times, but she was only stealthy until she reached her target.
Then it was full-on.
“And I prefer to live.” With that, he vaulted to the next rooftop.
Not soon enough to soothe her frayed nerves, they landed on his roof.
Syn walked over to the opposite edge of the building and leaned over its ledge. With an indifference to danger she greatly envied, he stared down at the street for several minutes before looking back to where she was keeping a respectful distance. He motioned her forward.
Her heart still lodged in her throat, she obeyed even though she hated the thought of looking down.
“I see two tracers,” he said once she joined him. “What about you?”
She stared down at the dark street and her stomach hit the ground. For a minute, she was ill, but she swallowed her panic and forced herself to look around. It wasn’t until a piece of paper blew across the street that she finally saw one man walking.
“Right there,” he said, pointing to the man pacing between two lamps that she’d noted. “And over there.”
She looked at the other man sitting on a nearby bench, looking like a homeless urchin. How had she missed seeing him before?
As she stared at them, she realized their clothes were far too new and clean for them to be homeless and she couldn’t imagine any other reason for them to be about. “Why did they choose such obvious vantage points?”
She turned toward him with a raised brow. “Where are the others?”
He shrugged. “No telling. They might be looking at us right now.”
Then how could he be so calm about it? “And to think I turned down the chance to get a good night’s sleep at your office.”
“Yeah, well, I told you to stay put.”
“Next time I’ll listen.”
He pulled his hood on, then secured two lines down the side of the building. “Vik?” He tapped his earpiece that kept them in contact with each other. “You see anything?”
He glanced to her expectantly.
She pulled her own hood on and tucked her braid into it. A bead of sweat ran between her br**sts as she thought about what would come next.
She would be hanging about three hundred feet above the ground. One misstep and she’d die.
As if completely unperturbed, Syn swung over the edge and began his rapid, fearless descent. She swallowed hard and watched the expert way he danced down the side of the building, his boots clicking ever so slightly against the two-inch metal piece that separated the mirrored blocks.
Well, she couldn’t let him get the better of her. Licking her dry lips, she carefully climbed over.
As she began her much slower descent, the chilly wind whipped against her body.
How could Syn do this for a living? How could anyone?
Just one tiny slip and . . .
Well, whoever had the unpleasant task of cleaning up the mess would probably be able to use a sponge on her remains.
With that thought foremost in her mind, she looked up at the roof and tried to think about someplace safe. To her complete dismay, the only safe place that came to her was an image of Syn holding her.
Good Lord, what was with her? She’d never had such delusions before. Never even had a single hormone rear its ugly head.
Something about Syn had chiseled away her indifference and invaded her thoughts and heart in a most terrifying way.
Out of nowhere, two hands grabbed her legs.
“You’re almost there,” Syn said, guiding her to land on the balcony beside him.
Letting go of that rope was the easiest thing she’d ever done. She rubbed her hands down her sides, trying to use the material of the gloves to absorb some of the clamminess.
Syn pulled several little discs from his pack and placed them at each corner of the windows.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“They’re light filters. They’ll keep anyone on the outside from seeing a light while we’re inside.”
“Wow. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
“That’s because I invented it and I’m not real eager to share it with other people.”
“Did you really?”
He paused and turned toward her. Even though she couldn’t see his face, she was certain he was giving her a look to rival the winds for coldness. When he spoke, she was even more positive. “I can do a lot of things that don’t involve stealing.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, she narrowed her eyes. “Did I say you couldn’t? You, my friend, are seriously defensive when it comes to your past.”
“You should try me on my future sometime.”
Before she could ask what he meant, he slid open the door and stepped inside. Once she entered, he pulled it closed.
All of a sudden he froze, as if something had stunned him.
Was it the Rits?
Her heart pounding, Shahara squinted into the darkness, but couldn’t see anything. “Where’s a light?”
It flared on.
Her breath caught as a sick feeling washed over her.
Oh no . . .
His immaculate home looked like a city’s waste facility. His paintings had been torn from the walls and slashed. The sofas looked like they had met a huge bird of prey and lost their battle to survive.
Papers, chips, and discs littered the entire floor. Even the food she’d left behind had been pulled from his cooling unit and dumped on the floor where it’d rotted and filled the place with a very lovely little odor.
How could anyone do such a thing?
If there’s one thing I value, it’s my home. She winced at the memory of Syn’s words. Looking at him, she saw that he hadn’t moved. He just stared at the mess.
His expression pained, he swallowed. “My cleaning lady is going to be really pissed.”
Deciding laughter would be the worst possible response, Shahara added, “I’ll take the odds that say she’s going to quit the minute she sees this.”
It was then that his icy facade slipped under a mask of ultimate fury. “Damn them,” he ground out between his teeth as he jerked the hood off his head. He pulled his hair free of the ponytail and raked his hands through it. “I hope you all rot in hell, slimy bastards.”
Shahara wasn’t sure how to react. He reminded her of a spring that was too tightly wound, and at any minute she expected him to explode. Every single muscle in his body was tense. Even his eyelids, and she’d never known that those could get tense.
He released a hissing breath and started kicking at papers with the toe of his boot.
Suddenly, he froze again.
“No . . . gods, no,” he breathed as if some horrible thought had just occurred to him.
He took off to the bedroom like lightning.
Cautiously, she followed after him, afraid of what she’d find.
He stood before the open wall safe and pulled chips and papers out. “Where is it?” he growled as if the safe had contained his very soul.
“What are you looking for?”
He ignored her. Instead, he fell to his knees and started frantically searching the floor of the bedroom.
Her heart clenched. She’d never seen him like this before. After all they’d been through, she thought nothing could rattle him. But he was completely torn up by whatever was missing.