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Tracey Amey

He could be reckless with his own life. Taking risks, courting danger—it was all part of making a living. When all his friends left him, he had abandoned any compunctions he had about the consequences of his actions. There wasn’t anyone left to care about what he did or what happened to him.

But Skye wasn’t like him. She was no misborn stray to whom no one paid attention. The ton followed her every move, down to the color of the lace in her bonnets. She couldn’t stand in front of her house pressing her point out in the open. She was too noticeable by far without brandishing a sword at him for all to see. The last thing she needed was more attention.

Not that she seemed to care one whit that her life was in real danger.

Beside him, Skye stirred in her seat. “I do realize we are in danger,” she said calmly. “I’m not a fool, you know.”

Apparently, he should add mind reading to the list of skills Skye developed in his absence. Things just kept getting better and better. He breathed out his frustration and turned to her. “You are not a fool,” he agreed, “but you are inexperienced. My apprehensions for you come from knowing what I would do if I were those men from last night.”

Her face titled toward him. Her eyes were too wide, more white and not enough blue. He’d scared her. His stomach churned in response, but he hoped it meant she was starting to take the situation seriously. Her gaze dropped to her hands working compulsively in her lap. “And what would you do?”

“I would track your every move and those of your servants and visitors,” he started. “I would sniff out every vulnerability you have. For example, I would use your protectiveness over those close to you. I would use those people however I must to make you give me the sword. If someone got hurt along the way—” He turned his face away, sick at the thought of finishing the sentence.

After several silent moments, he chanced a look at her. Her face was drained of color and she looked like she was going to be sick right there in the hack. His chest constricted, but he couldn’t regret what he said. She had to know the truth about the kind of threat she was up against.

His own guilt about past deeds flared up, and for the first time, he was truly sorry for the things he’d done. Justifications be damned, he’d hurt people. Maybe someone like Skye.

She glanced up at him again. Her eyes were still stark with fear, but underneath the fright was something else. “You’re telling me all this so I know what we’re facing?”

There it was, not just fear, but hope. She wanted to believe he was only trying to scare her, that he wouldn’t really do the things he’d outlined. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but forged on. “Make no mistake. These men will go to any length to get what they want. I know because I’m just like them.”

Skye turned her face away from him and chewed at her lower lip. When she dropped her gaze to the sword in her lap rather than look at him, he struggled to breath against the lump of self-loathing that rose in his throat. He leaned forward and pressed his heels against his eyes. “Now you know the kind of man I really am. I wouldn’t blame you if you hated me.”

Her head came up quickly. “I don’t hate you. I can only think about how desperate you must have been to do those things.”

He froze, more exposed by her understanding than he had ever felt on an open battlefield. He was desperate, though that was no excuse. “That’s who I am, Skye, but that’s not who I want to be.”

She locked her gaze on his, her blue eyes soft and warm. “I know.”

The sheer weight of the trust in her expression sent his mind reeling. He told her he was the worst kind of villain and in return, she looked at him as she would willingly give him every measure of faith she had.

He pressed himself as far away from her as he could get in the tiny cab. He was terribly afraid that by just touching her, he would corrupt her as he had himself.