How far would you go for love?
Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she's about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren't enough, she's about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.
Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs... Or he may make everything worse. Has she finally found a puzzle she can't solve?
She sat on the couch and curled her knees up, her arm slung across the back, looking at him. "So, happy about the win?"
It took him a minute to realize she was talking about the match. "Oh, definitely. It's always fun when we trounce Man U."
She raised an eyebrow. "Trounce? You call three to two a trouncing?"
She smiled and shook her head. "I don't get it, but maybe it'll grow on me."
He could've sat there staring at her for hours, taking in the way her hair draped around that exquisite neck of hers, the self-conscious way she fidgeted with her nails, the movement of her mouth as she spoke, but there were other things to discuss, and they were running out of time. "I have something for you." Daniel removed the black wireless drive from his pocket and slid it across the seat to her. She reached for it, but he put his hand over hers as she touched the device.
"It's encrypted, so you'll need the passcode."
He watched her. Every time.
He marveled at the discovery. Every single time he touched her, she held her breath for a fraction of a second. He’d first noticed it as he helped her out of her sweater earlier and then again when he’d worked up the nerve to take her hand. That he had that effect on her was amazingly endearing. She always looked so in control, to see that small vulnerability in her was exhilarating. Did she realize it was happening? He hoped not, because she might try to hide it if she did.
"So what's the passcode?" she asked.
Was he really brave enough to tease her?
He decided yes, he definitely was. With a hammering heart, he drew in close. At the last moment, he shifted to the side to whisper in her ear, "8272050”. Very slowly, he backed away.
Her eyes fluttered open. He had poured it on thick there, but he couldn't help himself.
"What's the significance?" she asked, her voice breathy.
Daniel shrugged. "That's the day I realized you didn't hate me."
"Hate you?" Her mouth formed an 'o' shape as she took it in. "Daniel, I never hated you. It was more..."
"What?" he asked.
She shifted on the couch, nestling into the soft fabric. "Disappointment, I guess."
And there it was. He had suspected maybe that was the case, but it was unconfirmed until she said the words. It was hard to swallow, but he supposed it was better than her actually hating him.
"You were..." She was struggling for the right words. "I was expecting more, I think, when I first met you. You didn't seem interested in anything more than the way I looked. I've never gotten much of that, and the few times I have, well, it wasn't a good experience."
He thought back to their first meeting. He had taken her for a new intern, looked her up and down, and made a superficial judgment. After that, no wonder she had felt that way.
"Even now," she continued, biting her lip. "Even now I'm not sure what it is you're here for. I want to believe that all your efforts this past week were to prove you're capable of better, that you want to be respected and treated as one of the best in your field, and more than some shallow guy only here for a good time. I think there's more to you than your first impression led me to believe. Keeping an open mind about people has served me well in the past, but..."
She fell silent and didn't meet his eyes.
Nothing she said was untrue. Daniel knew how other people saw him. He never said or did anything to make them think differently. Lydia looked so sad sitting there, not sure if her words even registered with him. A pang of guilt shot through his gut.
Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced at him. "But I don't want this to be the time I was wrong."
He swallowed. He knew what she meant. More than anything at that moment, he wanted the exact same thing.
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