“I’ll decide that after I have a chat with the mechanic.” Pushing back his chair, he rose to his feet, the scent of his body—soap, warmth, something darker—sweeping across her senses. “But first—Vale’s apartment.”
“Alright.” She stood, aware her movements were not as graceful as his—her body felt jerky, disconnected. “If you’ll give me a moment to change out of my suit.”
“You had court this morning?” He reached out to open the door for her, the action making her pause for a second. Men never did things like that for her. It wasn’t because she was Psy—she’d watched any number of males do the same act automatically for all females. But they always seemed to want to distance themselves from the violence she wore on her face—as if they were afraid it was catching.
She realized she’d been quiet too long. “Yes?”
“How did the case go?”
“How it always does,” she said, unlocking her door with gloved hands that were a constant reminder of who she was, and who she’d be till the day she died—no matter the need to rebel, to break the chains of a past that refused to set her free, there could be no other tomorrow for her. “I told the judge and jury what I saw. That is all I do.”
Men who know their fathers are different creatures from men who don’t. It’s time I ripped off that particular blindfold.
—E-mail from Max Shannon to Bartholomew Reuben
Max watched Sophia disappear into her apartment and let out a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding. The woman got to him, no doubt about it. And she got to him in a way that made a mockery of any thoughts he might’ve had about keeping his emotional distance.
Heading back to his bedroom with that truth circling in his head, he grabbed a black Windbreaker from his suitcase. It took only a couple of seconds to shove his cell phone inside and shrug into it—walking back out, he leaned against the wall opposite Sophia’s door as he waited for her to finish changing. It gave him a couple of very needed minutes to calm down.
And face the facts.
His body not only liked the idea of Sophia Russo, it liked the reality of her even more. She had lush, sensual lips, curves that made a man thank God—and she smelled so good he wanted to bury his face in her neck like the leopards did with their mates. But those eyes that had once reminded him of River’s laughing gaze . . . they were utterly flat, so lifeless he may as well have been talking to an automaton.
With most Psy, he would’ve accepted that lack as an inevitable side effect of their emotionless personalities, but with Sophia, he knew it had to be a carefully constructed lie. Because no one who’d seen the things Sophia Russo had seen, who’d walked in the blood-soaked footsteps of evil, could have remained unscathed by it.
Not unless her emotions weren’t simply buried, but excised from existence.
The door opened at that moment, revealing the woman at the center of his thoughts. She’d changed into jeans and a gray sweatshirt that covered those curves he was starting to obsess over. He could see the edge of a white T-shirt beneath the sweatshirt, while plain black sneakers peeked out from under the hem of her jeans.
“Is this appropriate?” she asked. “I assumed we might have time to go to the garage as well.”
He ran his gaze not over her clothing, but over the soft curls of her shoulder-length hair. A rich, charcoal black, those curls tempted a man to fist his hands in the softness, tug her close, and sink his teeth—deliciously carefully—into that full lower lip. “Yes.” It came out husky.
She hesitated, as if she’d caught the edge in his tone, but her words when they came were pragmatic. “I’ll e-mail the Councilor from the car, ensure the chief mechanic knows we’ll be coming.” Locking her door after picking up that little computronic gadget that seemed to be surgically attached to her hand, she fell into step beside him, her head not even reaching his shoulder.
“You’re short.” He could tuck her under his arm, and against his body, without any problem whatsoever.
Sophia almost halted. “That kind of observation is rude in all cultures.”
He shrugged, but he’d noted the jerky movement before she smoothed out her stride, considered the implications—Psy made it a point to react as little as possible, regardless of the provocation. And Max was very, very good at provocation when he was in the mood. “I didn’t say you didn’t look good short.”
“I am what is termed a ‘throwback’ to my great-great-grandmother,” Sophia said, her tone pure feminine frost. “She had the identical body type. I will never be slender.”
“From where I’m standing”—Max couldn’t help himself, the devil in him taking over—“slender is overrated.”
Ignoring him with a focus that made his lips curve into a slow, satisfied smile, Sophia pressed her finger to the touch pad for the elevator. “Will your pet be alright in the apartment?”
Surprised she’d bothered to ask after Morpheus, he nodded. “I left a window open for him.”
“There is only a very narrow ledge, and it’s several floors off the ground.” A glance back down the corridor, as if she was considering returning for Morpheus. “He is also in an unfamiliar city.”
That look, the words, the hint of a personality behind the ice, had every one of his instincts humming—Sophia Russo was no robotic Psy. She was something, someone far more intriguing. “Morpheus is an alley cat,” he said, remembering the way he’d seen her extend her fingers toward the cat, the inquisitive look on her face when she’d thought he wasn’t watching. “He already considers that ledge his own personal egress and the city his very own playground, trust me.”