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An Excerpt From: SHARED OBJECTIVES
Copyright © CHANDRA RYAN, 2013
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
“Ben’s wrong,” Dixie said, his back still toward her.
She couldn’t resist laughing at the statement. “He’s wrong about a lot of things. I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific.”
“You’re a good person.”
She took the cup of hot salvation he held out to her and inhaled its heavenly fragrance. “I haven’t had coffee in…” She let the sentence die when it brought back too many painful memories of her captivity.
“You don’t want to talk about Ben?”
She took a sip and let the hot beverage soothe her suddenly edgy nerves before answering. “Ben has his reasons for his feelings. He didn’t know who I worked for and I didn’t know he was genetically enhanced when we met. When it all came out, he felt the government had found a new and inventive way to torture him.”
“It doesn’t sound as if he was exactly forthcoming with you, either.”
“I realized it was an honest omission on his part. He’s a techie, not a mercenary like you, so the differences weren’t quite as noticeable. But had I been paying closer attention, I would’ve guessed anyway. It just didn’t matter to me.”
“A lover’s genetic status wasn’t important to you?” He looked at her skeptically. “Forgive me if I call bullshit on that one. I’ve had women stand up and move to the other side of trains to avoid being near me. I don’t even want to tell you what they’d do to avoid being under me.”
The loneliness that haunted his eyes was something she could easily relate to. Suddenly wanting to comfort him, she reached across the table and let her hand rest on top of his. “Believe it or not, being a geneticist for the government doesn’t exactly have men beating down my bedroom door either.” She ran her thumb over his hand affectionately. “That’s probably why I never tell anyone what I do—did—for a living. It got to where I couldn’t stand the wariness in their eyes. Like if they fell asleep they’d wake up in a lab somewhere.”
He cocked his head and studied her a little more closely. “Did you ever tell Ben that?”
She looked down as she remembered the fight they’d had. “It’s hard to see your enemy as anything else.”
“But you said it didn’t matter to you.”
She glanced over at Nate as he shifted in his sleep. “Ben was never my enemy. I, however, was his before I ever said hello.”
“You two are going to have to work together. I can order him to be civil. But you don’t exactly fall under my jurisdiction.” He looked down at her hand as if it were an alien entity. “Will you be okay with that arrangement?”
“Will we be working together a lot?” She didn’t hate Ben but she wasn’t fond of the way he looked at her and talked to her with disdain.
“As much as it pains me to admit, Ben is the brains of this group.” Dixie shifted nervously and, for the first time since they’d met, looked uncomfortable. “He’s going to be assisting you.”
“I’ve already perfected the procedure. I don’t need an assistant, just a laboratory to work in.”
He took a heavy breath in and released it slowly. “Okay, he’s not assisting so much as…” His words died as he looked away from her uncomfortably again. It was then that the pieces slid together for Lisa.
No longer feeling the need to comfort him, she pulled her hand away. “Keeping an eye on me and double-checking my work.”
Dixie had the grace to look guilty before he nodded.
“I see.” She stood slowly and walked over to the door before turning back to look at him. “Say what you will about Ben, but at least he’s always been straightforward. His feelings about me are the same to my face as they are behind my back.” She opened the door and gestured into the night. “If you don’t mind. I’ve had a long day and tomorrow is going to be,” she rubbed her temple with her free hand as a headache bloomed, “difficult.”
He rose gracefully from the table and crossed the room in quick, even strides. “I understand.” He stopped when he stood in the doorway. “Before I go, though, I want you to know that having Ben verify your findings wasn’t my idea.”
She continued to rub her temple as he spoke. “Well, it sure as hell wasn’t Ben’s. He’s under the impression we’re not going to be seeing each other anymore. He’s pretty damn happy about that too.”
“I know. I’m going to clear up that misunderstanding as soon as I leave here.” He ran a finger down her cheek until it rested under her chin and then forced her to look up at him. “At the end of the day, he and I are both just soldiers fighting someone else’s war. This order goes over either of our heads.”
For one moment Lisa thought he might kiss her. Which was ridiculous. They’d only just met. And, though she’d been told she was pretty, she couldn’t be considered beautiful on her best days. With everything she’d been through, today could easily be considered one of her worst and she probably showed it. She shuddered to think of how she must look after weeks of captivity and her rescue. Still, he hovered over her and his gaze locked with hers.
In that moment, staring into his green eyes, she saw his loneliness mirror hers and almost wished he would kiss her. Only, that would make her the whore Ben called her. Wouldn’t it?
Before she could worry any further about the implications of wanting to kiss him, he smiled. “You look worried. Tell me, do I frighten you?”
“No.” A shiver swept through her but it had nothing to do with fear. His smile made her focus on his mouth and staring at his mouth brought back the desire to be kissed.
“Are you sure?” Instead of stepping back and giving her space, he braced one arm above her on the doorjamb and leaned even closer to her.
Yep. It wasn’t fear she was feeling. If she had to give it a name, she’d call it anxiousness. That fluttery feeling she’d get in the pit of her stomach when she knew everything was about to change. “I’m sure.”
“Good. I like you.” He stared at her for another moment before pushing away from the doorjamb. “I’d like to think the feeling is mutual.” He turned and then took several steps into the night.