Once the idea came to him, the decision was made quickly. “You told them you’re going in alone.”
She avoided the question with one of her own. “What are you going to do?”
“You need backup. I’m going to that fundraiser with you.”
“No,” she said, stretching the word out, raising a hand and shaking an index finger. “You’re not part of this, but I need you to keep your mouth shut. If you were willing to let me walk out of New Corinth, free, and lie to your colonel, then you can keep quiet about this, too. Right?”
It was one thing to offer her a free pass, but this…this seemed different, and so much bigger. Bigger than both of them. “I need proof, too.” He couldn’t really make sense of it yet, but he knew once he had time to untangle the knots in his head and his gut, he could explain it to her. Right now he couldn’t even explain it to himself.
“You cannot be a part of this. I’m not sharing information about the underground with you.”
“I didn’t ask you to.” He ran his hands through his hair then rubbed his face. He needed a shave, bad. And a haircut. Nothing was regulation. First thing in the morning he would get rid of the scruff, then find a place to get a haircut. “You don’t have to tell me anything about the underground or what you do for them. I’m going to be your backup on this job. That’s it. We both need proof, for our own reasons. So, let’s just get that proof. Then we’ll get you out of New Corinth like we talked about.”
Tuyet approached him with slow, deliberate steps. Hands on her hips, flint in her eyes. “I don’t like this.”
There was a challenge in the set of her face and in her body language that he recognized from countless hours of sparring between missions. It didn’t have the same intensity as when she was on an actual job, but that coiled tension in her muscles never failed to set him on edge. He clung to that feeling now, far preferring it to the abyss offered by what he’d overheard.
He strode toward her until only inches were between them. “Like it. Don’t like it. I don’t care. This is how it’s going to be.”
She took a step and there was one less inch of tension-filled air between them. “This is my op. You do what I say, when I say it. If you screw this up in any way, you’ll get the hell out of New Corinth and don’t look back.”
“You’re awfully confident I’ll ignore my orders for you no matter what.”
Amber glittered in her dark brown eyes as she smiled. “I think you and I both know who’s really in charge here.”
Why did it feel like she’d thrown him a lifeline along with that quasi-insult? He added it to his list of things to figure out later and grabbed on tight with both hands. “Yeah, and that would be me.”
Hayes closed the distance between them and took her face in his hands. Caressed his thumbs gently across her cheeks. She didn’t lean into him but she didn’t pull away, either. He stalked her mouth with his, their lips so close her breath teased his whiskers and fanned an old spark, threatening to send it bursting into flame. Another hairsbreadth closer. She shivered. Another. Her eyes melted into a warm liquid gold that spoke of desire, all the things between them they’d always refused to acknowledge.
He curled one hand around her nape. With the fingers of the other, he traced the contours of her bone structure, barely skimming the surface of her skin. Her body vibrated with tension and he almost changed his mind. Instead he smiled again and whispered, lips so close to hers that his mouth burned from the slight hint of contact.
“You can even call me sir if you want.”
Tuyet jerked her head away and slammed her hands into his chest. “Get out!”
He laughed his way to the door. “See you tomorrow, Snow.”
As he made his way back to the hotel, he resolved to think about that golden light in her eyes until it outshone the darkness of his fears.
I like Hayes, LOL. Take a look at the Magic Born storyboard to see what Hayes and Tuyet look like. And in case you're wondering, Tuyet is a Vietnamese name that means Snow, hence his nickname for her.