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Raine's voice drifted through the darkness. "I was right, wasn't I? About your being in military intelligence?"
Mac turned to pin her with a look. "Drop it, Raine."
"Is that the reason you don't want to talk about it? Why you decided to quit?"
"I said drop it." His voice was clipped.
"Something plagues you at night," she said softly. "I've seen you pacing out here. I couldn't sleep, either, and I watched you. Was it the intelligence work you did, was that it?"
If the woman had one ounce of self-preservation she would be retreating. Men a hell of a lot bigger had been known to quail before Mac's temper. She was either unaware or unafraid of it. He didn't know which was more galling.
"What the hell do you know about it?" he snarled.
She met his gaze steadily. "I know how every regret a person has can compound at night until they threaten to choke you. I know that fear uses the daylight to hide and the darkness to prowl in." Her voice dropped. "And I know that people who can sleep do, and those of us who can't usually have a reason."
He rose from his chair so suddenly it clattered behind him. "You don't know what you're talking about," he growled. "You think your ivory-tower existence has prepared you to talk about regrets. Lady, you don't know what regret is. Up to now, the biggest fear in your life has been whether you'll sell well enough for Klassen to keep you as a client. Hell, you don't even have the sense to be scared when there's a real threat out there."
"I'm saying that a person doesn't have to be in military intelligence to--"
It's called covert operations, baby, and most of the time it has damn little to do with intelligence." His face was savage. "Do you know what that job entails, hmm? It doesn't involve nine-to-five office hours pushing papers across a desk. It's carried out in the searing heat of deserts halfway around the world, and in jungles with air so thick you can't breathe. People don't matter there, obtaining goals does."
"And did you attain your goals?" she asked almost soundlessly.
"I did my job."
His tone was flat, the words bleak. and she knew in that moment she had been right about him. She'd sense that something rode this man, sensed it as only someone who'd been in the kind of pain herself could have done. And she felt for him, felt all the unspoken despair behind his outburst. "I'm sure you realized a long time ago that it's not the threats from without that keep people running or that scare them the most . It's the ones we carry inside us."
He stared at her wordlessly. Where did she come up with these ideas? From what he knew of her, she'd had the sheltered upbringing of a society princess. What had happened to Raine Michaels along the way that would give her these kinds of insights? "What is it about you?" he murmured, gazing intently at her.
"We're alike , you and I." The truth of her words struck her violently. For some reason she'd felt it at the beginning--there was something she recognized in Macauley O'Neill. Something that struck a chord in her.
"Whatever similarity you think you see between us is in your imagination," he said harshly. "You're being threatened, I'm here to protect you. It's as simple, as basic as that. Don't start romanticizing anything about this. Romantic is the last word that should be used to describe someone like me."
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