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“Are you a good guy?”

“Mostly. Define ‘good’.” The side of his mouth curled up and his gaze slid over her, making all of her tingle this time. Not good. First dates always made her feel awkward, stupid. This one blew them all to smithereens.

“For instance, do you mean am I good at certain things, or am I a good person? Because both are valid in their own way,” he said.

“And as for being a good person, just because my thoughts are impure doesn’t mean my actions would be. Mostly, I manage to keep myself in check. But, with you, I’m a little overexcited. You might have noticed. You have, haven’t you? I think I’d given up on finding anyone alive and you … well, you exceed my wildest dreams.” He paused, stared at her for a moment, eyes intent.

Such blue eyes.

“But back to the question, I’ve been told I’m quite good at some things. I can give a demonstration if you like. You know, of things I might be good at. You could judge for yourself if you like. Do you like?” he asked.

She blinked.

“I’m babbling, aren’t I?”


“You’re very kind.”

They smiled at each other. He had a nice smile.

It occurred to her then that, for a brief time, she had been okay. Fear had not ruled her mind. Panic had not owned her body. She was not cowering up in the sweltering heat of the attic, surrounded by dust and cobwebs, more frightened of the world outside than she was of the poisonous spiders sharing her space. For a few brief minutes she had been herself, holding a conversation even, albeit a rather odd one.

How perfectly, weirdly, normal.

“You okay? What are you thinking?” Daniel eased the grip on her hand, and she managed to draw it free. Stupidly, once back in her own possession, her fingers missed the firm, steady grip. “Not going to flip out on me again, are you?”

That was the question. She thought hard before answering.

“No. I don’t think so.” Ali rubbed her palm against her leg, wishing she could rub off the whole liking the hand-holding business.

It was the human comfort factor, no biggie. Without a doubt, she’d certainly been short on comfort. She might crave it, but she could live without it, as she had amply demonstrated over the past few months. The underdressed, oversized man standing in her bathroom eating her up with his eyes was entirely unnecessary for adequate levels of comfort. If only her fingers would stop quivering. If only she wore more than a towel.

“It’s okay if you need to flip a little. I can deal with it,” he said. Gentle fingers tucked a strand of wet hair behind her ear and then lingered for a moment before returning to his side. He had a way of moving into her personal space in the blink of an eye, before she even knew what was going on. Or, maybe he had never left and she had ceased to notice.

She’d acclimatized to his presence.

“You know, I kind of enjoyed you against me, not biting or anything. It was nice. I could get used to it. Shit, I really am babbling. I haven’t talked to anyone in weeks.” Daniel scrubbed a hand over his face then let it wander up to do the same to his choppy hair.

“Funny thing is, before al this, my favorite thing in the whole wide world was to be left alone to get things done. I hated conversation for no damn purpose, for politeness’s sake. Know what I mean?”

“Yeah,” she said, understanding perfectly. More often than not, opening her mouth meant saying the wrong thing and being frowned at or ridiculed. Alone was a thousand times simpler.

He stepped closer. She stepped back, her butt hitting the sink.

“So … Communal bathing? Too much, too soon?”

“Mmm.” She tucked her lips in and gripped her towel, afraid it might slip to reveal more than he needed to know of her state of mind.

The man had a way of seeing everything.

“Gotcha.” His hands settled on his h*ps and he gave her a lopsided grin. “I didn’t mean to scare you with all my grand plans.”

“I’m not afraid of you, or your plans.” Mostly.

“Well, I didn’t mean to push you either.”

“Yes, you did,” she laughed. “You’re the epitome of pushy.”

He sighed. “Busted. Out of curiosity, if you weren’t scared, then what were you? When you were staring at me just now, I mean.”

“Maybe a little scared.”

“Ah. Okay. If I’m not allowed to get away with telling fibs, even the little ones that don’t hurt anyone, same goes for you, babe.” Blue eyes bored into her. “If it makes you feel any better, you scare me too.”


Daniel hated the moaning. It might drive him crazy.

One of them still bumped around outside, knocking over potted plants and banging into wind chimes. Daniel watched Ali by the light of the candle but she didn’t stir, thank god. His girl needed her sleep.

She might have begun curled up in a tight ball but she was a bed hog at heart and after weeks of sleeping up in an attic, he didn’t much blame her. He hadn’t been able to sleep. Every time he lay down, his nightmares started.

Besides, her presence excited the hell out of him.

To have company was great, amazing. But to have her as company thrilled him right down to his toes and all the way back up again.

So instead of sleeping, he enjoyed the view, sitting at the end of the wonky double bed, which in al likelihood predated him. His girl defied the laws of gravity splayed out the way she was, with the sizeable dip in the mattress toward the center. She was lying on her back with her limbs spread-eagle, nothing more than white panties and a tank top covering her on account of the hotbox humidity.

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