He shifted a little, and when his hand moved she realized for the first time he was holding a gun. She froze, fear squeezing her dry throat like a fist. She couldn’t take her eyes from the pistol, which she had no doubt was loaded.
“I’m not going to shoot you,” he said laconically, “unless you do something stupid. Since we both know you’re the furthest thing from that, I’m sure you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
She gulped and raised her eyes. What the hell was going on? Ben was holding a loaded gun against her.
“Been busy?” he asked in a mocking tone.
She attempted to pull herself together. Why even bother asking? If he’d followed the transmitter in her phone, then he knew exactly where she’d been the past few days. She refused to let him see he’d rattled her. Her chin came up. “I had a few things to take care of.” Like staying alive.
His short laugh was far from warm. “I bet you did, sweetheart.”
His south Boston accent took the R out of the endearment and made her heart ache. A few short days ago, he’d looked at her with warmth and kindness. Now, the expression in his eyes was almost glacial. Speculative and even angry. He had a right to feel that way after she’d disappeared on the team, but why the gun and the hostility radiating from him? She wished he’d let her explain everything. She needed him to believe her, because she had no one else to turn to.
Gathering her courage, she took a step away from the door, then another, holding that frigid gaze. He sat perfectly still, a tiger waiting to attack its prey. It unnerved her. This was not the jovial, affectionate Ben she’d come to know. He was a total stranger right now.
She stalled out a few steps from him, scrambling for something to say to ease the tension. “Ben, I—”
“Stop right there and hand me your bag.”
She bit her lip and did so, waiting while he emptied the meager contents on the table and went over each item looking for electronic devices. She clenched her teeth. Like she’d even had time to think about bugging anything.
He set the bag beside his chair. “Got your BlackBerry?”
She nodded. “In my pocket.” She was afraid to retrieve it in case it made him aim the gun at her. Her fingers twitched once, then fell still.
He held out one hand, palm up. Her eyes followed it. He had such beautiful, strong hands. She’d spent many hours working next to him, admiring them as they moved over the keyboard and the rest of their equipment. Long, lean fingers, the short-clipped nails blunt and clean. The hands of a healer and a warrior. She remembered the feel of them on her shoulders when he and Rhys came to her apartment after she’d called them for help back at the start of this whole mess. They’d lent comfort and support. Kindness. Now he motioned one impatiently at her.
“Hand it over.”
Careful to move slowly in case he suspected she had a weapon of some kind, she dug it out of her pocket and put it in his broad palm, the brief contact shooting sparks of heat up her arm. She snatched her hand back, hating the fact her body didn’t pick up on the cold front it had walked in on. He seemed remote, but she sensed something seething beneath his composed exterior. Whatever was going on in his head, he had to have something more on his mind than her disappearance. “You seem upset,” she ventured, not knowing what to make of it. If anyone should be upset, shouldn’t it be her?
An awful silence met her words. It expanded until it filled the room and pressed in on her.
“Upset?” he said finally, then shrugged. “I’m not upset. I’m just trying to figure out why you’d fall of the face of the earth exactly when bad shit started happening.”
She licked her lips, not liking what he was inferring. Something else must have happened that she didn’t know about. “I don’t know what I can say that will make you believe me,” she began, stomach squeezing tighter when he didn’t even glance at her. Despair filled her. “I called you because I need your help.”
He set her BlackBerry on the side table next to him and regarded her dispassionately. “That’s nice.”
His remote expression jangled her nerves. What had happened to make him look at her like that? “You want me to trust you, Sam?”
She frowned. “Of course I do.”
“You’re a bright girl, so I’m sure you can understand why that’s not going to happen. But if you want to try to earn my trust, I’m game.” He tilted his dark head, pale eyes glittering a challenge in the lamp light.
“You can start by taking off all your clothes.”