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“The sensible thing to do is use this opportunity as recon only.”
Embry had to reach deep to keep a hold on her temper as she stalked past him into the ratty motel room. “Fuck sensible, Gage. We may never get another shot at this. We’ll be inside. The most logical thing to do is for me to slip away while you have them all occupied during the fight, release Dad, and get the hell out.”
“And how exactly do you think that’s gonna work?” he demanded, locking the door behind them. “You have no idea where he’s being held in that facility, no idea how big the place really is. If he couldn’t Walk out by now anyway, he’s not going to be able to do it once you release him from wherever they’re keeping him. And no way in hell are those soldiers going to just let the two of you out the front door. And that’s assuming he’s in any shape to be mobile. You don’t know what condition he’s in.”
“So I take out the power grid, create shadow, boom, we’re out. Unless he’s unconscious, he can do that.”
“Right. And you’re just going to happen to be able to figure out how to manage all that without getting caught by one of the hundreds of troops floating around in there. Because no way will all of them be at the fight.”
“Then I’ll wing it,” she gritted out.
Gage shook his head. “This is why you would never have made a good Walker. You can’t separate your heart from your head, and it makes you reckless. And it’s why your father is in this mess to begin with—because he’s exactly the same way.”
She whirled on him, flames of temper rippling down her arms. “You son of a bitch. Don’t you dare tell me about my father. You owe him everything. If he hadn’t had a heart, you’d have likely been beaten to death by your own father.”
Gage nodded, eyes serious. “I know it. I’m where it started. I’m where he started to lose his edge. He took risks with me that no Walker should ever take because he loved me and that’s what ultimately led the other Shadow Walkers straight to me.”
“Don’t be stupid. He would never have endangered you that way. He was careful. Always.”
“It’s just a fact, Ember. He slipped up somehow. Or I did. I knew it was only a matter of time—”
“It was me,” she burst out.
He stopped talking and stared at her.
“It was me they followed. I’m the one who was careless, who skipped some precautions. Because, yes, I was reckless, and at the time the only thing in the world that mattered to me was seeing you again.”
Emotion flashed over his face, too fast for her to read. “Ember—”
“Shut up, I’m not finished. I’ve had ten years to regret those mistakes, to become someone who dots every ‘i’ and crosses every ‘t’. I follow the rules, and I’m well goddamned trained at what I do. So if you think I’m going to go off half-cocked and risk losing my father the way I lost you, then you don’t know me at all.”
The fire along her arms winked out as misery swamped her. She turned away from him. Could this be any more of a disaster? She’d recruited him specifically because she’d thought he’d follow her lead, do what she said. What needed to be done. When had he become so careful and conservative? Never mind that he’d raised good points. Careful and conservative was the reason the Council wouldn’t send an extraction team.
Hands settled on her shoulders. “I’m not trying to shoot you down here, Embry. But if we’re going to do this, we have to be careful about it. I know you don’t want to lose Adan. Neither do I. But I don’t want to screw something up and risk losing you. Not now. Not again.”
She knew her jaw was clenched and defiant, though she didn’t turn to look at him. “I won’t screw this up.”
“Then you agree to be sensible about this?” he asked. “You promise you won’t try to do anything on your own?”
“I promise I won’t do anything stupid.” It wasn’t quite the same thing, but Gage seemed satisfied with her response. She turned to face him, and his hands fell away. “We can’t really plan much for this. As you said, we won’t know enough until we get in tomorrow.”
“Then in the meantime, you need to decompress. You’ll be more effective if you’re calm and cool when we go in there.”
Embry gave a harsh laugh. “I haven’t slept well. I’ve hardly been able to breathe since they took my dad. Exactly how do you propose I decompress?”
Something hot sprang into his eyes, and Embry felt her skin flush with an entirely different heat.
“We could talk,” he said.
“Talk?” she asked faintly. Nothing at all in his expression suggested talking.
“About the last time we saw each other. Before things went to shit. You changed things between us.”
Touch me. The echo of her words swept through her, snapping desire to life. She had wanted him so much. She still wanted him.
He hesitated, not moving any closer. “If things had gone differently. If we hadn’t been interrupted, would you have changed your mind about that?”
Never. “Would you?”
One corner of his mouth tipped in amusement. She wanted to press her lips just there.
“I spent every day from the time you were sixteen trying to convince myself that you were my sister.”
Embry blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Because of your father. He treated me like a son, and I didn’t think he’d much appreciate the thoughts I was having about his daughter.”
She wondered if those thoughts had run parallel to hers and whether he’d lain awake nights aching for her. “I never thought of you as a brother.”
The other corner of his lips twitched into a full smile. “It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that back then since that was essentially the lynchpin of my self-discipline.”
Her mind conjured up the memory of Gage braced over her, straining desperately to control himself as she shamelessly kept him pinned with her legs. She had no idea why she’d chosen that night to test him, except that she was so tired of waiting, of wrestling with all the feelings he stirred up in her and not knowing whether he felt the same. She didn’t know what she would have done if he’d rejected her. Run in mortification, most likely. And then he’d have been alone when they came for him.
She closed her eyes and shuddered, just slightly. With an effort, she pushed the thought away, fixing a smile on her lips and aiming for light and a little flirty. “I had a terrible crush on you.”
His face went serious. “I was in love with you.”
Could he hear her heart thumping? she wondered. It beat like jungle drums in her ears as she stared at him. Still, her voice was steady, even a little amused when she spoke. “Were you?”
Gage shook his head. “Well that’s not entirely accurate. I’m still in love with you, Embry.”
She couldn’t breathe for the fist that squeezed her heart. No, no, don’t do this to me now. Not when we have no future. Swallowing did nothing to quench the desert of her throat.
Before she could think of a reply, he continued. “Things might not go as we hope tomorrow. And if something goes wrong, I needed you to know that.”
She should back away. Get another room. Anything to escape how the expression of fierce, protective adoration on his face made her feel.
Instead, she stepped into him, rising to her toes and threading her fingers in his hair before capturing his mouth and taking.
* * *