For the second time, she let her eyes drift open once then twice. This time when she opened them it was in her own apartment with the view of the windows overlooking the street that was her first sight. Beside them in the darkness, she saw the man, Adame, watching the street below.
There was grace in every move he made. There was even a kind of grace in the way he stood silently watchful in the night like a sentry. She tried to moisten her lips, but her mouth was dry as a desert. Without turning, Adame
informed her, “There is water on the table beside you.”
She raised up to reach for the glass and guzzle the liquid. Finally, he turned, “You shouldn’t drink so fast.”
“You shouldn’t assassinate people. The whole world is full of people who shouldn’t.” She continued to drink like a dying woman.
“You are being watched,” he said menacingly.
“I know. It’s the Coalition. They’ll make a move soon.”
His eyes left the street to meet hers in the darkness, glowing like coals. She knew he could see her just as if there were light. It was a Braxian trait. “You sound as if it’s not the first time.”
She laughed weakly. This dose had taken a lot out of her. “It’s not.”
Mal sat upright slowly. “What time is it?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.
“It’s late. You should sleep. I will keep watch.”
She cut him a cheeky look. “An assassin for a bodyguard?”
“Can you think of a better person to guard your body?”
She took a breath. He hadn’t meant that as a sexual come on, of course he hadn’t. He probably had no idea how it sounded, but, damn, if it didn’t put ideas in her head. She stood as slowly as she’d sat up. “I’m feeling just sick enough to take you up on that. You had to hit me with that shit twice?”
“It was procedure for such occasions.” He came around the table to stand near her. “You are very unusual for a human.”
“Thank you. I guess.”
“No, I mean you don’t appear have the usual prejudices your species normally do. There is something in your eyes when I’m close to you. Almost as if you wouldn’t….”
“Wouldn’t what?” She knew. He had an expression of curiosity on his face. She’d seen it before; in Braxian children, on the home world, in strangers and friends. They always wanted to
touch her hair, her skin. It fascinated them without end to be so close to a human. “Go ahead. You can touch my hair.”
He startled at her permission, but, rather than deny it, he smiled that half-smile. His hand curled, but it lifted to the cloud of dark auburn waves around her face. More black than red, she had their father’s dark hair and skin, unlike her fairer siblings.
His hand unfurled to bury itself in her hair. “Soft,” he whispered.
Adame pulled his hand back almost as soon as he touched her hair. She shook her head. “It’s natural to be curious. I was curious the first time I was this close to a Braxian.”
His mouth twitched. “It’s not the first time,” he confessed. “You’re just the first human I have been curious about.”
Mal didn’t know how to take that. She must have looked as confused and flummoxed as she felt because he stepped back and told her, “Go to bed. I will stand watch.”
“When will you sleep?”
“I sleep lightly. No one will get past me. You need to sleep off the sedative.” His voice was all business again.
She made her way to the bedroom wondering what had her spinning over a Braxian freedman, an assassin no less. When it came to making bad choices, she feared she could be on the cusp of one of her most epic bad decisions yet. At the door, she looked back over her shoulder.
“There are blankets in that cupboard over there.” She indicated a tall, old fashioned armoire.
He nodded his thanks with that graceful incline of his head and held his palms out in a Braxian sign of gratitude. They watched each other a moment or so too long. He was the first to look away. It would appear that she wasn’t the only one confused about this sudden fascination.