“I wanted to talk to you in private,” he replies softly. “Make some apologies.”

“No need,” I quickly say. “Let’s just forget everything that happened and move on.”

“Yeah,” he mutters, running his hand through his hair and shooting an apologetic glance at my mom before pinning me with a hard look. “I can’t forget what happened last night. We need to talk about it.”

My mom whips her head toward me, her gaze questioning. My face flushes at the implication he’s just left my mom with.

With a startled shake of her head, my mom starts backing toward the staircase. “I think I’ll just go up to my room for a bit. Give you two some privacy.”

I sigh. No sense in telling her not to go. She’s silently projecting by her actions she wants me to get this resolved, so I nod toward the kitchen. “Want some tea or coffee?”

“No thanks,” Griff replies with a polite smile.

“Then sit,” I say, motioning toward one of the two guest chairs or my mom’s recliner. I settle back down into the couch, then take another sip of my tea while Griff ignores the chairs and sits on the couch beside me, angling his body so we’re face to face.

It’s too close for comfort, yet I can’t seem to move. But I do want this over with, so I get him on track. “You said something about apologies.”

“I’m not sorry about hiding my true identity from you,” he begins, and I narrow my eyes. Not what I was expecting. “I was undercover. I didn’t know if you could be trusted. I had years of extremely dangerous work under my belt I couldn’t afford to blow.”

“Anyone ever tell you that you suck at apologies?” I mutter.

He ignores me and continues. “I’m also not sorry I insinuated myself into your life under false pretenses. I really enjoyed the time I spent with you. I particularly enjoyed getting to know Aaron and hanging with him. Mostly, I had to try to get to know you as quickly as I could, because I was trying to size up just how much danger you were in. I was trying to determine if I could trust you with my truth. My goal from the start—from the minute Bogachev ordered the hit on you—was to protect you and your family, which superseded my undercover work. I would have gladly given up my cover if it was the only way to keep you and your family safe.”

Okay… that’s distinctly not an apology and yet, his words actually touch me.

“What I do regret,” he says with a long sigh, “is in not revealing everything to you last night, after we…”

I hold up a hand, face burning again. “No need to say it. I know what we did.”

“I wasn’t playing a part, Bebe,” he says, leaning toward me slightly. His eyes burn into mine, the green darkening with intensity. “Last night, in my kitchen… with my fingers inside of you. That was just me and you. Had nothing to do with my case or your history. I wanted to give that to you. You wanted it from me. But the minute I took something personal for myself, I owed you the truth. I’m sorry I waited until this morning and caught you so off guard, but I really just needed some extra time to sleep on it. To determine if I was truly ready to blow my cover and go home in defeat.”

“But you’re not going home in defeat,” I point out, suddenly feeling a bit sorry for him. “We’re going to work with you to take Bogachev down.”

“Yes,” he agrees with a flat smile. “But I didn’t know that last night. Or this morning when I showed up at Jameson. I thought my case against Bogachev was up in flames the minute I revealed myself. I had intended to come in, reveal my work, and then try to get you into some type of protective custody.”

This explanation truly hits me deep in the middle of my gut. I had not considered what Griff stood to lose from this. I was too angry I’d started to fall for a man who was not who he said he was. I had assumed he had no feelings whatsoever for me.

“I want you to know,” I say with careful consideration as to how to frame this. “What we did… the intimacy we shared… I don’t just do that with anyone. I mean… I trusted you enough to open myself up.”

“Sort of figured that out about you, Bebe,” he replies gently.

“And to find out everything I knew about you was a lie—”

“Not everything,” he points out. “I told you so much truth about me. My background… my family life. The things we have in common and the things we don’t. All that stuff we discussed… all real. I lied about my full name and what my purpose was in Cranberry. Everything else was the real me.”

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