“Are you breaking up with me?” she asked jokingly, clearly knowing that he never wanted to do that.
When he was with her he might pretend to be Michael, but he was still able to be himself, to be Graysen. And he hated himself more and more every day for lying to her face. But too many men and women had died because of the information her father had leaked. People who mattered to him. He had a duty to his country and to all the other people out there who could become a target, could be tortured, murdered and worse because their identities were sold to the highest bidder.
“No.” But you’ll probably never want to see me again.
“Okay, then I won’t push you to tell me what it is. I’ll be leaving in the next couple minutes.”
“You know I love you, right?” The words stuck in his throat even though they were true. Soon she would look at him in a new light, would see him for the liar he was. He just prayed that she could forgive him because a world without Isa in it was not a world he wanted to live in. And if she ended things with him… Hell, he couldn’t go there. He just needed to get through this day.
“I love you too…” There was a rustling, then her voice was muffled for a moment. “Hey, I’ve got to run, but I’ll see you soon.”
He glanced at his phone even though he already knew the time. If she left soon, she would be away from the estate when everything went down. That was the only thing that made him feel nominally better about this whole screwed up situation.
Graysen scrubbed a hand over his face and tried to mentally shake off the memory, but it was useless. “Come on, girl.” He patted his leg and Peaches ran up to him, the most loyal dog. He’d never admitted it to anyone, but if it wasn’t for Peaches, the last year would have been even harder.
At least when he came home at night there was someone there happy to see him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Isa. But he wasn’t giving up on her, on them. He simply couldn’t.
Part of him wanted to give her the file he’d been sitting on. The file that had all the dark truth about her father—what he’d done, how many people he’d gotten killed and in some cases, tortured. But…he didn’t want to be the cause of more of Isa’s pain. It would go a long way in explaining why Graysen had done what he’d done, but he didn’t know that he wanted to be the one to give her all that brutal truth.
* * *
Emerson wrapped her arms around herself as she and Carlito stepped outside into the chilly night air. She loved that he came to her father’s nursing home with her every week. Everyone loved her dad, and some of her other friends came with her as well when they could, but those were her girlfriends.
Carlito was… Well, she wasn’t quite sure what he was. They were friends, had been for the last six months. Lately, however, she was starting to have feelings for him. And definitely not the “friends only” kind.
She nearly jumped when he placed his jacket around her shoulders. He was a lot broader and wider than her. He had a lean, cut physique, something she didn’t want to be noticing. They were friends—she shouldn’t be so sexually aware of the man.
When they first met she’d been aware of how attractive he was. Obviously—she’d have to be blind not to realize how sexy the man was. He was handsome and polished, not what she pictured when she thought of a detective.
But he was always put together, his suits perfect and pressed. She could never keep herself so impeccable, but it seemed effortless for him. His bronzed skin seemed to glow year-round and his cheekbones would make supermodels envious. There was an edge to him, however. Probably to do with his job, considering how much death and other awful things he saw. So when he looked at her with those piercing gray eyes it was hard to ignore the sex appeal factor.
So yeah, she’d noticed all of that when they’d first met, but she hadn’t been thinking about the opposite sex in terms of dating or anything romantic at the time. Not after her last breakup.
“Thanks,” she said, pulling the jacket tighter around her. It was way too big and smelled like him, a distinctive spicy cologne that made her want to inhale deeply.
She’d left her thick coat in the car, thinking she wouldn’t need it. But it felt as if it had dropped ten degrees since they’d been inside. Or more likely the heat had been turned up so much in there that it just felt colder now. The fact that he was so considerate touched her. Her father had commented on it, because he seemed to think Carlito wanted more than friendship. He always asked her when she and Carlito were going to get married. She nearly snorted at the thought. This sexy detective wasn’t going to be settling down anytime soon. She knew what kind of reputation he had.
“So are you still coming over for Christmas?” he asked.
“Of course, unless… Did your plans change or something?” Carlito’s sister Camilla had said something to Emerson earlier today about him dating someone new, so she wasn’t sure if that was why he was asking. Six months ago the thought of him dating wouldn’t have fazed her, but now…
She didn’t like that ugly, twisting sensation in the pit of her stomach. It wasn’t like he belonged to her. It wasn’t like they were anything other than friends. But she found herself feeling oddly possessive of him lately. Okay, maybe more than just lately. It had been a gradual buildup until one day she realized—she wanted more than friendship from Carlito. Way more.
It was part of the reason she hadn’t called him earlier today. When Camilla had told her he was seeing someone else she hadn’t wanted to hear the truth from him. Emerson wasn’t sure she’d be able to act nonchalant about it. She wondered why he hadn’t said anything—even as she was happy that he hadn’t. She didn’t want to hear about him and some other woman.
He let out a short laugh. “Never. My mom would kill me if I didn’t show up for Christmas. And she’d probably kill me if I didn’t bring you.”
The sharpest sense of relief slid through her veins. She adored his whole family but especially his mother. Her own mom had died when she’d been young and part of her had always felt as if she was missing something. “You never told me what I should bring.”
“Just yourself. And your dad, if you think he’s up to it.” He gave her a strange look as they reached her car.
They’d driven separately since they lived in opposite directions, and now she wished they’d ridden together in one vehicle because she wanted to spend more time with him. An hour or two at a time was never enough. It didn’t matter that they talked on the phone—when they got to spend time together she always wanted more, more, more.