Elle made a move to snatch the knife from Archerâs fingers but the bastard held firm. She started a tug-of-war with him before remembering that she no longer let anyone see her sweat and forced herself to go still.
Not that Archer let go. âYou still have it,â he said, a whisper of surprise in his voice.
The equivalent of a full-on double take from the man who was all but impossible to shock.
And yes, of course she still had the knife. Did he really think she wouldnât? She didnât blush very often but she felt heat rush to her face now. Regret, partly.
Mostly full-blown mortification.
Sheâd very carefully taught herself to be strong and confident and to never look back.
Sentimentality didnât have a place in her life. Or so she told herself. So why then had she been carrying the small packet knife Archer had given her the night heâd saved her all those years ago? Especially since the thought of how sheâd tried to repay himâand God, the humility of how sheâd actually offered him the only thing sheâd had, that being her body, which heâd turned down flatâstill made her face flame. The worst part had been when heâd vanished like itâd been nothing to him, when to her itâd been everything.
She might not know why heâd done what he had but she still wasnât leaving here without that knife. It was a badge. A reminder of who sheâd been and who she was now.
Neither of them had moved. Around them the night life in the pub went on. Laughter, conversations, more dancingâ¦all oblivious to this tight, little cocoon of just the two of them crouched in front of the bar. They might as well have been completely alone for all the attention anyone paid them.
Balanced with apparent ease on the balls of his feet, Archer leaned in even closer if that was possible, close enough that his knees touched hers. Close enough that she could see every single gold spec in his hazel eyes. Every single black-as-ink eyelash framing those eyes. He was hours past a five oâclock shadow and a muscle ticked in his square jaw.
A rare tell from a man who could be a stone when he wanted.
The rest of him was as big and bad and intimidating as ever. His large body blocked out everything behind him and although he could be terrifyingly scary when he wanted to be, he never was with her. With her he was careful. Cautious.
And she hated that most of all.
This time when she tried to tug the knife from his long fingers, he let her. Rising, she stared down at him. âWe done here?â
He rose to his feet too. And just looked at her.
âWell?â she asked.
âWeâre never done,â he said.