Message from Dr. Edgard Bashir
IVY STOOD AT the window that night, looking out at the high-powered lights that illuminated the street below. The bodies were gone, but the authorities were still collecting evidence. She knew in her gut that if the outbreaks continued, such careful work would soon be considered a luxury.
Hearing a noise from Vasic’s bedroom, she stepped through the open doorway to find him shrugging off his leather jacket, his boots already discarded. The last time she’d seen him, it had been for a fleeting instant when he dropped Rabbit back at the apartment. He’d been on watch outside for hours, not to mention the work he’d done to help clear away the bodies. She’d missed him with every breath . . . but the man who’d come back to her wasn’t the same one who’d surprised her with a pastry that morning, before the world fractured in a hail of terror and madness.
“Getting ready to shower?” she asked, stomach tightening at the ice of him, his emotions walled up so effectively that the emptiness made her chest clench in pain.
A curt nod. “Excuse me.” And he was no longer in the room.
Ivy stared at the space where he’d been as the shower came on after a minute in the attached bathroom, the words Aden had spoken to her at the hospital vivid in her mind. As the other Arrow had pointed out, Vasic’s wounds ran bone deep. Those wounds had been drenched in death and violence anew over the past fourteen hours, were rubbed raw and bloody.
Understanding why he’d gone distant and cold didn’t mean she was about to permit him to brood alone. That bad habit was one she intended to break, and break quickly. You know, she said telepathically, it’s extremely frustrating to try to have a conversation with a man who can simply teleport away.
Hands on her h*ps when he didn’t respond, she strode over to the open bathroom door—clearly her Arrow didn’t appreciate her determination where he was concerned. Leaning against the doorjamb, she felt her breath leave her lungs in a pleasured rush at the blurry outline of his nude body behind the steamy glass of the shower enclosure.
It took serious effort to find words since her brain seemed to have forgotten the concept of language. “So”—she saw him freeze beyond the glass, his hands in his hair—“did the medics discover anything new about the infection?”
Lowering his hands, he said, “Ivy.”
“Yes?” She didn’t budge. “You were about to answer my question.”
“I was about to ask you to leave.”
“Sorry, I didn’t hear you.” Wickedness woke in her. “Where are you going to teleport naked?”
“I could go to my quarters in Arrow Central Command.”
She stuck out her tongue at him. “That’s cheating!”
Turning off the shower, Vasic slid open the shower door. Ivy was determined to stay . . . but lost her nerve at the last second. “Damn it.” Twisting out of the door, she stood with her back against the wall beside it, her skin hot and breath short.
When he stepped out, a towel wrapped around his hips, she bit down on her lower lip. He was beautiful. All sleek muscle and strength, a finely honed blade of a man. Trickles of water from his hair trailed down his back, and she had to fight so hard not to reach out and touch. She wasn’t sure he’d accept it. Not tonight. “You didn’t dry your hair properly.” It came out a husky whisper.
Turning toward her, he braced himself with his palms on either side of her head, his bare skin inches from her, the heat of him smashing against her hungry skin. And his fury . . . that was a stunning thing, the storm in his eyes molten silver.
“I can’t give you what you want.” It came out ice-cold, but those eyes, those eyes . . . “I thought—” He shook his head. “You can’t change the core of a man, Ivy. You can’t take a man christened in blood and make him into something better.”
Ivy narrowed her eyes, furious at the way he continued to see himself. “I don’t want you to change. Haven’t I made that clear?” Rising on tiptoe, she fisted her hands in his hair. “I want you. All of you. Even the part that infuriates me.”
Vasic could feel the numbness that had crawled over him in a defensive reaction to the carnage he’d seen, the bodies he’d handled, begin to crack. Jagged and sharp, each crack echoed through his mind, ice splintering across a frozen lake. “I handled the dead with my hands and my mind today,” he said, and it was a brutal, inescapable truth. “Do you really want those hands on you?”
She released his hair . . . and something broke in him, only to heal even stronger when she tugged one of his hands off the wall and intertwined her fingers with it. “I’ve told you—I want your hands on every inch of me.” Passion glittered in her eyes, was hot on her cheeks, and a large part of it, he realized too late, was anger. “You used these same hands, that same mind, to save lives today. Why don’t you ever focus on that?”
Vasic set his jaw.
Gripping it in her slender fingers, Ivy forced him to meet her gaze. “No more, Vasic. You don’t get to live in purgatory, and you certainly don’t get to punish yourself by shutting out everyone who cares for you. If you want to brood, you do it with me so I can knock some sense into you.”
Vasic couldn’t take his eyes off the vibrant life of her, the numbness in a thousand pieces by now, no match for the force of Ivy’s fury. “You,” he whispered, “are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had in my life.”
Eyes afire, she shook her head. “No, you are not getting out of this fight that easily.” A glare. “I want a promise.”