was all it took. The twins ran off.
Lily needed to holster her gun, but her hands were shaking and her arms felt like noodles. It took her two tries. Then at last she was free to turn to Rule. His eyes held darkness, corner to corner. Tension drew grooves along his face. "You all right?" she asked.
"No. Do you think that really is your colleagues on the way?"
"We try for fast response time, but I doubt it. I'd just as soon not wait around and find out, though. I wasn't entirely joking about the paperwork."
"Weren't you?" A small smile ghosted across his face. "Let's go."
They made it the last half-block to his Explorer without anything happening, and in complete silence. He unlocked both doors, locking them again as soon as they were in, and started the engine. Then he crossed his arms on the steering wheel, leaned his head on them, and shook.
Lily didn't mistake his reaction for fear. Whatever had been happening to him, he'd fought it and fought hard. There was a price to be paid for that. She unclicked her seat belt and slid over and put her arms around him.
The shakes stopped. He went very still. Then, in one of those too-fast-to-see movements, he had his arms around her, pressing her up against him as if he needed to soak her up. He ran his hands over her sides, her back. His breath was harsh
against her hair. "One heck of a meeting spot you picked for us."
"Sorry about that." Sensation chased itself over her skin like thousands of tiny shivers. Everywhere he touched came alive, and there was a tugging down low in her stomach, a pulsing beneath. "God." She clamped her hand on his arm as if gripping an anchor in a high wind. "I was so scared."
"You didn't sound it. You sounded tough. And bored, as if you did that sort of thing twice a day." He rubbed his face against her hair "But I could smell your fear. I wouldn't have let them hurt you, Lily. They would never have touched you."
"I know. I was scared you were going to kill people. And that I'd have to." Her voice hitched. She turned her face into the living cubbyhole formed by his neck and shoulder and breathed him in. Her insides seemed to be vibrating. She needed more. More touch, more skin, more connection. "I've never killed anyone. I've drawn my weapon, fired warning shots, but I've never had to aim to kill."
"Warning shots weren't going to work with them. But you handled it. You talked them down. Lily. I'm coming apart." He nuzzled the side of her neck, then licked it.
A delicious tremor shimmered through her. The air was suddenly hot. Her fingers dug into hard muscle covered by cloth, and she wanted the cloth gone. He could smell her reaction, she realized. He knew how desperate she was for him. "What is this? I feel like I'm rattling at top speed over bumpy ground. Like everything's about to shake loose. Is it you? Are you doing this, or is it me?"
"It's us." He gathered her face in his two hands and tipped it toward him. His eyes shone in the dim light. Normal eyes once more, or so close to it she couldn't tell the difference. "Us, Lily. This is what we bring to each other. I need you."
She stared at him in a vast, humming silence, her skin and bones and need a thin bridge stretching between one moment and the next, when everything would change.
"There's a hotel." His hand trembled as he brushed her hair back. "Six or seven blocks from here. It isn't what I want for you, for our first time together, but I don't know if I could make it to my apartment, or yours."
He needed her. "Yes," she said. And her voice came out clear and strong, just as if she knew what she was doing.
LILY WOULD HAVE insisted on driving if she'd been sure she was in better shape than Rule. They were lucky the traffic was so light.
They rode in silence. She kept waiting for doubts to surface, for common sense to point out all the reasons this was a bad idea. What did sex really mean to Rule? She didn't know, couldn't guess. She wasn't sure what this meant to her, either.