"I ruined her life! I got her pregnant and she died." He started to leave the couch, but she put her hand over his.

Instantly his gaze shot to their hands, his fingers curling into hers. What if he messed up her life like he had Diana's? What if he pushed and Ciara ended up hating him?

When he tipped his head back, Ciara saw raw emotion shaping his features. She realized this is what had been hounding him, this was what she'd recognized the other day when she mentioned a guilty conscience. She understood, for in her career, she'd been faced with the same torment. Compassion swam through her and she'd suddenly recognized moments when this affected him, how tight he held to it, even when he was flirting with her.

"Bryce, listen to me." She gripped his hand tightly as if it would make him see clearer. "You're looking at the circumstances, and placing blame. Diana died of complications and she would have if she'd been pregnant by any man. Whether you loved her or not. Accident or planned, it doesn't matter now. You can't change the past. She's gone, and you have the best part of that marriage in Carolina."

Bryce held her gaze with his own, sinking into it, into her, and a wave of comfort washed over him. He didn't know if it was her understanding or the simplicity that she saw, only that he heard her. Because he was ready to hear. "Yeah, I do," he said quietly.

"And there is one thing I know for sure…"

"What's that?"

"I've been in your bed. I know she wanted to be there."

His lips curved slowly, his smile devilish and growing by the second.

Instantly Ciara wished the words back, knowing she'd just opened up a subject she'd warned herself to keep closed. "Forget I said that." Twisting away, she set the wineglass down.

"Can't," he said, his gaze traveling over her.

"Try harder, please."

Before he could stop her, she left the couch, moving to the other side of the room. Bryce could feel her closing all doors and battening down the hatches against him. He wasn't going to allow it. Not again.

"And if I don't want to?" he said.

"You don't have a choice."

He gave her one of those sexy grins that liquefied her knees. She locked them and looked toward the doorway.

Bryce had the urge to make a dive for her just to keep her there.

"You don't have one, Bryce," she warned and sounded pathetically weak to her own ears. "Can't you just let a five-year-old affair go?"

His features tightened. "You think that's why I want to be with you? Because of Hong Kong?"

He was looking at her with such earnest shock her next words came out more like a question. "Why else?"

"Lady, have you got it wrong."

She folded her arms over her middle and cocked her hip. "So tell me how, then?" Good grief, her sensible CIA mind shouted. Don't go there. Don't.

"I'll admit that I haven't forgotten about that night. I can't and I don't want to. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments."

"Yeah well. Once." She wouldn't admit aloud that she'd relived it over and over until, when she was alone, she could almost taste him on her mouth. His gaze moved over her, slowly, purposely and Ciara felt her insides jingle. "I'm no different—"

He shook his head slowly. "Before, you were just a figure, a face and a touch." He saluted her with the wineglass. "Now I know the woman."

He knows only part of me, Ciara thought, and the secrets she kept sent guilt sliding through her. "Okay, I'll give you that, but you must admit that night has colored your opinion of me."

"Yes, it did. Then."

She shouldn't ask. She wouldn't. She did. "And now?"

His gaze roamed her. "Let's just say it's changed."

"Unfair. That could mean a lot of things." And his opinion meant a great deal to her. Right now, it meant everything.

"I'm not going to fill your head with compliments."

"Why not?"

He grinned and her stomach tightened. "Do you want to know that when I see you with Carolina I can feel your love for her?"

Her expression turned tender. "Of course I love her."

"Or that when you look at me, I can't breathe sometimes," he said as if she hadn't spoken.

Same here, she thought wildly. Same here.

"I've tried to push you out of my mind since you walked through my front door, and I don't want to any more." He rose slowly and started toward her.

Ciara stepped back.

"Why do I scare you?"

Pride straightened her spine as she wasn't about to admit he did anything to her, but it was a lie. And she was telling enough of those already. "Because if this were just sexual, I might be able to handle it." Her voice trembled and she swallowed.

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