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Nothing matters anymore.

Nothing but this moment and his mouth on my body, his hands on my skin, his kisses in brand-new places making me absolutely, certifiably insane. I cry out and cling to him, dying and somehow being brought back to life in the same moment, the same breath.

He’s on his knees.

I bite back the moan caught in my throat just before he lifts me up and carries me to the bed. He’s on top of me in an instant, kissing me with a kind of intensity that makes me wonder why I haven’t died or caught on fire or woken up from this dream yet. He’s running his hands down my body only to bring them back up to my face and he kisses me once, twice, and his teeth catch my bottom lip for just a second and I’m clinging to him, wrapping my arms around his neck and running my hands through his hair and pulling him into me. He tastes so sweet. So hot and so sweet and I keep trying to say his name but I can’t even find the time to breathe, much less to say a single word.

I shove him up, off me.

I undo his shirt, my hands shaking and fumbling with the buttons and I get so frustrated I just rip it open, buttons flying everywhere, and I don’t have a chance to push the fabric off his body before he pulls me into his lap. He wraps my legs around his hips and dips me backward until the mattress is under my head and he leans over me, cupping my face in his hands, his thumbs two parentheses around my mouth and he pulls me close and he kisses me, kisses me until time topples over and my head spins into oblivion.

It’s a heavy, unbelievable kiss.

It’s the kind of kiss that inspires stars to climb into the sky and light up the world. The kind that takes forever and no time at all. His hands are holding my cheeks, and he pulls back just to look me in the eye and his chest is heaving and he says, “I think,” he says, “my heart is going to explode,” and I wish, more than ever, that I knew how to capture moments like these and revisit them forever.

Because this.

This is everything.


Warner has been asleep all morning.

He didn’t wake up to work out. Didn’t wake up to shower. Didn’t wake up to do anything. He’s just lying here, on his stomach, arms wrapped around a pillow.

I’ve been awake since 8:00 a.m., and I’ve been staring at him for two hours.

He’s usually up at five thirty. Sometimes earlier.

I worry that he might’ve missed a lot of important things by now. I have no idea if he has meetings or specific places to be today. I don’t know if he’s ruined his schedule by being asleep so late. I don’t know if anyone will come to check on him. I have no idea.

I do know that I don’t want to wake him.

We were up very late last night.

I run my fingers down his back, still confused by the word IGNITE tattooed on his skin, and train my eyes to see his scars as something other than the terrifying abuse he’s suffered his whole life. I can’t handle the horrible truth of it. I curl my body around his, rest my face against his back, my arms holding fast to his sides. I drop a kiss on his spine. I can feel him breathing, in and out, so evenly. So steadily.

Warner shifts, just a little.

I sit up.

He rolls over slowly, still half asleep. Uses the back of one fist to rub his eyes. Blinks several times. And then he sees me.


It’s a sleepy, sleepy smile.

I can’t help but smile back. I feel like I’ve been split open and stuffed with sunshine. I’ve never seen a sleepy Warner before. Never woken up in his arms. Never seen him be anything but awake and alert and sharp.

He looks almost lazy right now.

It’s adorable.

“Come here,” he says, reaching for me.

I crawl into his arms and cling, and he holds me tight against him. Drops a kiss on the top of my head. Whispers, “Good morning, sweetheart.”

“I like that,” I say quietly, smiling even though he can’t see it. “I like it when you call me sweetheart.”

He laughs then, his shoulders shaking as he does. He rolls onto his back, arms stretched out at his sides.

God, he looks so good without his clothes on.

“I have never slept so well in my entire life,” he says softly. He grins, eyes still closed. Dimples on both cheeks. “I feel so strange.”

“You slept for a long time,” I tell him, lacing his fingers in mine.

He peeks at me through one eye. “Did I?”

I nod. “It’s late. It’s already ten thirty.”

He stiffens. “Really?”

I nod again. “I didn’t want to wake you.”

He sighs. “I’m afraid I should get going then. Delalieu has likely had an aneurysm.”

A pause.

“Aaron,” I say tentatively. “Who is Delalieu, exactly? Why is he so trustworthy with all of this?”

A deep breath. “I’ve known him for many, many years.”

“Is that all . . . ?” I ask, leaning back to look him in the eye. “He knows so much about us and what we’re doing and it worries me sometimes. I thought you said all your soldiers hated you. Shouldn’t you be suspicious? Trust him less?”

“Yes,” he says quietly, “you’d think I would.”

“But you don’t.”

Warner meets my eyes. Softens his voice. “He’s my mother’s father, love.”

I stiffen in an instant, jerking back. “What?”

Warner looks up at the ceiling.

“He’s your grandfather?” I’m sitting up in bed now.

Warner nods.

“How long have you known?” I don’t know how to stay calm about this.

“My entire life.” Warner shrugs. “He’s always been around. I’ve known his face since I was a child; I used to see him around our house, sitting in on meetings for The Reestablishment, all organized by my father.”

I’m so stunned I hardly know what to say. “But . . . you treat him like he’s . . .”

“My lieutenant?” Warner stretches his neck. “Well, he is.”

“But he’s your family—”

“He was assigned to this sector by my father, and I had no reason to believe he was any different from the man who gave me half my DNA. He’s never gone to visit my mother. Never asks about her. Has never shown any interest in her. It’s taken Delalieu nineteen years to earn my trust, and I’ve only just allowed myself this weakness because I’ve been able to sense his sincerity with regular consistency throughout the years.” Warner pauses. “And even though we’ve reached some level of familiarity, he has never, and will never, acknowledge our shared biology.”