Connor is idly running his fingers through my hair, my head pillowed on his naked chest, my bedroom dark but for the solitary candle burning in the corner.
“You’re awfully quiet tonight,” Connor observes, and I bite back a laugh.
That’s because I just killed a man two hours ago, in your hospital.
A man whose only mission was to kill you.
They’ve probably found him by now, I think to myself. Someone innocently opened up the door to that consultation room, and found a foreign man with a bullet wound through his heart.
The police, the coroner, everyone gathered around, trying to find out why a man was killed in cold blood in a hospital.
And no doubt wanting to know who did it.
Me. I killed a man. I’ve done it before. More than I like to admit. And I’ll live with the specter of this kill too.
“Just tired, I guess…” I say quietly, and Connor presses a kiss to my temple tenderly.
“Me too,” he says. “Definitely sleeping in tomorrow. I just seemed to have case after case today, where people were hopeless or scared or… I don’t know. Sometimes, I walk into the emergency room, and I’m just stunned by the senseless brutality of people. I had a man who had been beaten to a pulp in a silly argument over a woman. I mean, the assailant nearly killed this guy, and he’s going to have months of physical therapy, not to mention the emotional scars, and all I can do is patch them up. I never know how their lives change after that… I never see them after they walk out that door, but I always wonder what can drive people to do that to another human, you know?”
And that’s when I start to cry.
I’ve held it in for so long – for years – and finally, I can’t hold it in anymore.
At first, just two tears trickle down my cheeks, dampening Connor’s chest, but then, the tears start to fall… faster and faster, and I heave a deep breath, as though all the oxygen in the room has been sucked out in one moment.
I can’t breathe. I just can’t breathe.
“Hey… hey…” Connor says, his voice soothing. “Are you okay, Em? Are you… are you crying?”
He sits up, his arms around me, but in one movement, I pull away from him, violently, sliding across the bed to the other side, dragging the sheet with me, tugging it around me, needing to be away from this good, kind man, needing to hide myself from him.
God, why is he even touching someone like me?
“Em…” His voice is scared now, and he reaches out to stroke his hand down my back, but I pull away from his hand, feeling the sear of his touch on my skin.
Oh god, oh god…
“Emme, you’re scaring me,” Connor says, his voice far away now. “What is it?”
But I’m crying too hard to answer, heaving in great gasping breaths of air, the tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Talk to me…”
And despite my attempts to pull away, Connor closes the distance between us on the bed, sliding me into his arms and refusing to let go, though I try to push him away. His arms are warm and safe, and his hands stroke up and down my back, as though he were trying to calm a frightened child.
After several minutes of sobbing, I feel the tears begin to subside, and I realize that Connor hasn’t let go.
Despite having a hysterical woman in his arms, he’s stayed with me.
Few men would, I think, brushing the tears from my cheeks and giving him a shaky smile.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper, and Connor brushes my hair away from my face, framing my face in his warm hands.
“Emme, what is it?”
I bite my lip, not sure what to say. “I’m… I’m…”
A secret agent. A spy. I have sworn to protect you. I killed a man for you tonight.
But I can’t say those things.
Not if I want Connor to have a life.
“I… I can’t tell you,” I say, squeezing my eyes shut in regret.
“But why? Don’t you trust me?”
“More than you will ever know,” I say, still not opening my eyes. “But I can’t… I can’t tell you this. I just… you have to trust me too.”
“Are you in trouble, Em?”
I shake my head. “No. I just… I’ve promised to keep some things confidential.”
“You’ve told me that before.”
“And I meant it,” I say, my voice stronger now, my eyes open and meeting his. “I’m not in trouble, and I want to tell you things about me, but I can’t. Not yet. I just need you to trust me…”
“I do,” he says without hesitation.
“Not many men would say that,” I say and he smiles lightly. “Most men would have bolted out the door when the first tears hit.”
“I’m not most men,” Connor says. “I keep telling you what a catch I am, but you don’t believe me…”
I smile a little at that.
He really is quite the catch. He’s right.
“And I need…”
“Emmanuelle Sutton,” Connor says, kissing my nose lightly. “I love you. And I trust you. And I’m not leaving you.”
“You love me?”
Connor nods, his expression serious. “I love you,” he whispers, kissing my temple. “I love you,” he whispers again, kissing my cheek, “I love you,” he says, kissing my lips.
“I love you too…”
I would kill for you. I would die for you. I would do anything to keep you safe.
If only I could tell you who I really am. Then I’d find out if you really do love me, or just the illusion of me.
But for now, all I can do is wait.
“You okay?” Connor asks, lying back down and dragging me up against his chest, his arms around me. “Really okay?”
“I’m okay,” I say, pressing my lips against his collarbone. “Or I will be.”
I really will be.