“Why are you back? Why are you here with me, if you’re not really here with me?”
His jaw clenched, his gaze sliding away from me. “I didn’t come back for you.”
If I wasn’t dead inside, those words would have pierced me.
As it was, I rocked back an inch, putting even more distance between us. He looked like a wild animal that had been released from its cage and for the first time it hit me that he could be dangerous to more than my heart. That I had no idea who he’d become in the last few years, and the depth of all he’d lost yawned between us. If I hadn’t known and loved him all of my life, I would have questioned the threat before me. As it was, I recognized the danger in him when I saw it. All I could do was hope that he had enough affection for the memory of us to keep him from hurting me. That somewhere beneath all of that hardness, there was still enough of the old Matt to make him more ally than enemy.
“Why did you come back?” I repeated, not ready to take his silence for an answer. He couldn’t just resurrect himself and not expect any questions. Couldn’t just crash back into my life and expect me to accept his presence as gospel.
He cursed under his breath.
“Why did you come back?” I repeated, my voice more forceful now. I’d never been one to shy away from a fight, and I sure-as-shit wasn’t going to start now.
“Come away from the window.”
I whirled around, staring at the giant glass windows in my living room. Shit. Was he seriously worried about someone shooting at me through the window?
I jerked my head toward my tiny kitchen, my heart pounding, crossing over the threshold, not waiting to see if he’d followed me. What the hell was happening to my life? Who else had been in my apartment? So many questions filled my mind, and I had no clue where to start.
I turned back to face him. Matt stood at the entrance, his hip against the refrigerator. There was something so familiar about the pose—us hanging out in my apartment my freshman year of college or me visiting Matt in his—that a knot bubbled up in my throat. I beat it back with everything I had.
He wore head-to-toe black, some kind of commando-looking pants and a short-sleeved black T-shirt. Black boots that looked ready to kick some ass. The boy I’d known had been khakis and Top-Siders. What had he been up to in his absence? Killing people and living off of snakes? My hands itched to tug the black cap off of his head, to get a good look at the rest of him. I shivered slightly at the sight of the black gloves on his hands.
Yeah, he definitely looked like a killer.
“We need to talk,” not-Matt said.
I sucked in a deep breath, trying to push back the anger so I could get answers. Someone else had been in my apartment. Someone had broken into my apartment. I was clearly in trouble. And as much as a part of me hated him right now, he was a powerful ally and the only person who could fill in the blanks that had haunted me for years.
“Fine. Talk,” I commanded, even though my tone sounded more like a plea than a demand, even though he’d shaken my world upside down.
His gaze narrowed.
“Where have you been …” I couldn’t say the words “since you died,” but they lingered between us anyway, and by the way his body tensed, he knew exactly what I meant.
He’d been gone for more than three years. I’d thought he was dead. I’d mourned him. How dare he act like I didn’t have a right to know, as if we were little more than strangers? The boy he’d been, the boy I’d loved, would have told me. Would have understood that I needed to know. I didn’t recognize this man standing before me; he was cold in a way Matt had never been.
“Fine,” I snapped, my temper flaring, my heart, shriveled though it might be, icing over. “Let’s try this. Why are you back?”
He wasn’t the boy he’d been, but I had a feeling he was beginning to realize that I wasn’t the girl I’d been, either.
I waited for him to speak, waited …
Nothing. It was like he was dead inside, even though he stood in front of me, alive.
My hand moved down to the gold necklace around my neck; I’d never taken it off, had worn it as a talisman that carried Matt with me always. When he’d proposed he’d been living on an enlisted salary, hadn’t had a lot of money for frills. I wasn’t the type of girl who cared about jewelry beyond the sentimental value, so we’d forgone the traditional engagement ring. I’d had my necklace and that was all I’d needed. I clutched it now even as it felt like everything slipped away.
“What happened to you?”
“You don’t want to know.” He pulled his cap off, running a hand through his hair, the move so familiar that my heart ached at the gesture. I averted my gaze, unable to look at him for another second. It was like staring at his reflection in a carnival mirror—the image before me was Matt and yet it wasn’t—he’d been distorted into something else entirely.
“I wasn’t prepared for this,” Matt answered, his voice tight. “Didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I was watching your apartment and I saw the guy go in. I was worried you were in danger and followed him.”
“You saved my life.”
“He wasn’t here to kill you.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because if he had been, you’d be dead.”
I gripped the countertop.
“He was a pro,” Matt continued. “Someone hired him to break into your apartment.”
“But not to kill me? Why? It’s not like I have anything valuable. In case it escaped your notice, I kind of live in a shit hole …”
I ran into the living room, my gaze sweeping over the mess. There were obvious signs of a struggle between Matt and the guy—furniture overturned, a lamp broken on the floor. Was that a bullet hole in one of my sofa pillows? My gaze settled on the coffee table, my heart clenching.
I jumped, the sound of Matt’s voice in my ear startling me.
“What’s wrong with you? After everything, do you really think it’s a good idea to sneak up on me like that?”
I didn’t even want to think about what that meant.
“What’s wrong?” he repeated.
All it’s going to do is get you killed.
Blair had been right—this was about me investigating Matt’s “death” in Afghanistan. Did my father hire someone to break into my apartment?
My chest hurt as though someone had punched me.
“Someone stole the papers.”
So stupid. I should have put them in a safe. Should have realized this would happen. I’d made copies, but still. This was not good.
I glanced at him, another puzzle piece sliding into place.
“The papers you sent me.”
Matt’s gaze hardened, sweeping over the living room. “I didn’t send you any papers.”
Spotted: Senator Edward Reynolds and James Ryan out to lunch in Arlington. What would the head of Intech, one of the world’s largest private security companies, have to discuss with the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee?
—Capital Confessions blog
“What do you mean, you didn’t send me any papers?”
“I didn’t send you anything.”
“Then who did?”
“Classified documents. A lot of it was redacted, but they dealt with a mission in Afghanistan. I thought it was your mission. Your name was in one of them.” He stiffened. “There were a few internal memos from Intech.” At the name of his father’s company, anger filled Matt’s eyes. “My father was mentioned in some of them,” I added.
“What did they say?”