He hadn’t looked at her much since they’d checked in for their flight. And he hadn’t said a word to her the past night after she’d told him about her spectacular failure four years earlier.
Destin understood why easy enough. She had a hard time looking at herself. It had been years since Dawn Meyer’s death and she still had a hard time facing the woman she saw in the mirror every morning.
She should have saved that girl. Was supposed to save her. If she’d listened to Caleb back when he’d tried to tell her all those times that she needed to learn some modicum of control, she could have saved Dawn.
But she hadn’t learned, and because of her, a girl was dead. She’d failed the girl. Failed her unit. Almost got them all screwed.
But the worst thing was that she let a girl die. Nineteen years old. Terrified and hurt and alone, and she’d died because of Destin.
Her unit saw it differently, she knew. At least some of them. Oz had rallied around her and refused to feed her to the sharks and that was a debt Destin could never repay. There were others, too, former agents who’d refused to let some of the higher-ups turn her into the scapegoat.
They should have, though.
They should have fed her to the sharks, left her for dead…nothing would have been a suitable-enough punishment. Just how did she atone for not saving a girl? For costing that girl her life? She couldn’t. She didn’t.
If she’d listened to Caleb all those years ago…
You can’t always dive in feet-first, baby…sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in a mess that you can’t get out of.
He’d been worried she’d end up dead.
She only wished that had been the cost.
No wonder he wouldn’t look at her.
Even now. They’d only been waiting for the flight for thirty minutes or so—Oz had arranged to pick them up—one more debriefing, she’d told them, and then she’d ended up picking them up a good hour earlier than what was really necessary. Now they had nearly an hour to kill before their flight.
The silence was a little heavy, even for her. She glanced over at him. “You hungry?”
Caleb made an odd little hmmm under his breath. A man of few words. The sound could either be, Yeah, I could eat or No. Shut up so we can get this over with and I can get the hell away from you.
Destin decided it was probably the latter and she was petty enough to want to drag things out. Petty…and lonely. Damn but she’d missed him. Being close to him again, having him this near, it did the strangest things, soothed the ragged gaping hole in her heart and left her feeling a little more at peace. And it made her ache. That wound inside her that had never healed started to bleed again and she wanted to yell at him, scream at him. Beg him to come back. All of it, any of it. And there was no way she’d give in to any of those urges.
“I’m hungry,” she lied, climbing to her feet. “If you want me to bring you back something, I can.”
She couldn’t eat. But she wasn’t going to keep sitting here next to him with his silence weighing down on her and his disapproval and disappointment choking the air around them.
She needed at least a short reprieve, even if it was only for five minutes while she hid in the women’s restroom or tucked inside one of the little bars that seemed to grace every airport she’d ever been in.
Actually, a bar didn’t seem like a bad destination…
Caleb got to his feet. “I guess I could eat,” he said, his voice low and smooth, the lingering hint of the South still echoing in his voice after all these years. “What are you in the mood for?”
“Doesn’t matter to me,” she said, shrugging and turning on her heel. She caught the handle of her carry-on and started down the main corridor. Anything would be fine, as long as she could have a drink.
Caleb didn’t know whether to be relieved or frustrated when they ended up being seated in opposite sections of the plane. Both of them were in business class—nice of Oz, that. Destin was two rows ahead of him on the opposite side of the plane and he could see the business exec trying to put the moves on her.
And then he saw the man go rigid when Destin turned to face him fully.
Fury lanced through him as he figured out what she’d done. Using that scar as a shield. Yeah, he knew there were plenty of assholes in the world who’d back off over a thing like that. Assholes, the lot of them.
It was a bare sliver of a scar and didn’t take away from her beauty, didn’t do a damn thing to detract from who she was.
But she let people decide to make that her defining characteristic.
It pissed him off.
It wasn’t anything she wore as a badge or a mark of courage…she used it to keep people away from her. She deserved better than that.
I was careless…
Her words echoed in his mind and he closed his eyes, blew out a breath. He could find out what had happened. A few phone calls, an email or two and he’d know it all. The surface details, at least. But the information he wanted was Destin’s. He knew she wasn’t going to share it with him easily.
Maybe not at all.
Guilt lodged in his gut and part of him kept wondering, Could I have helped…
He didn’t even know. For months after he’d left Destin, he’d had to work to get his own gift back under control and it had taken him even longer to find a way to mesh with somebody other than Destin. He’d had his own screwups to deal with and those screwups were legion.
Because of those issues, it had taken more than a year before he was stable enough to work regularly in the new unit.
Now, thinking about the months that had followed his leaving, thinking back to the way she’d looked at him, and he was left wondering…had he done the right thing after all?
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