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Claire watched him warily from her curled-up spot on the sofa, her azurite eyes full of confusion and mistrust he couldn't blame her for.

 

Damn it, he fucked up. His control slipped, seeing her like that. He wasn't even sure why, but seeing her battered, bleeding and unconscious, at the mercy of Gorge Rodriguez and his thugs, wrenched the lid off Pandora's Box in a big way.

 

Geronimo had been praying, ever since, that Claire stayed out the whole time. Clearly, God wasn't taking his calls, if the wary expression on Claire's face could be read as evidence. With a sigh, he finished fixing her coffee and left the small galley-style kitchen. Setting her mug down on the stand beside her -- careful to not get close enough to spook her -- he carried his own across the room to the window, staring out through the sheer curtains as he braced himself for what he had to stay, next.

 

"Ask," he finally muttered. "What you're thinking so hard at me, just ask."

 

He sensed her shift, heard her small, indrawn breath, before she sighed.

 

"How did you find me?"

 

It wasn't the question he expected, but Geronimo winced, anyway. Claire wasn't going to like this. "I never lost you."

 

"Excuse moi? I must not understand you correctly."

 

He snorted. "Don't even try that with me, lady. You speak better English than I do. You know exactly what I mean."

 

When he turned toward her, he knew he was right. Her face was a mask of cold outrage.

 

"You are saying you followed me. For how long? From where?"

 

"From the moment you left for your real meeting."

 

She surged up from the sofa, oblivious to how the motion gaped open her robe deeper at the top, revealing a surprisingly generous swell of breast.

 

"You had no right!"

 

Anger -- as much at himself as at her -- streaked through Geronimo, and he set aside his own coffee to stalk across the room and get in her face.

 

"Like hell I don't, sweetheart. I don't know how you're used to running ops, but when Matt Raleigh assigns you a partner, he expects you to work as a team. T.E.A.M. Team. Got that? It means I have your back, and you have mine. We share information. We do not go running around, playing G.I. Jane. That shit gets people killed. And whether you want to face it or not, last night, that was almost you."

 

She stared at him silently, her eyes widening by the second as his words poured out. Then, clearing her throat lightly in the ensuing silence, she asked, "And how, exactly, did you get me out? I thought I hallucinated what I saw. I must have, juste?"

 

And there it was -- the elephant in the room. The question he dreaded since she came out of her room with that deer-facing-a-Peterbuilt look in her eyes, this morning. With a muttered oath, he shoved his hands through his hair and paced away from her, again. "That's a little trickier to explain."

 

She was watching him with grim, frightened eyes, when he turned her way, again. "Try."

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

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