“A few things.” I’d always thought my hatred of people going blank was because I didn’t know how they felt about me, and maybe there was some of that. But now I knew it was more. I was afraid of losing my ability, or even of being imperfect with it. Losing empathy meant losing HQ. And it wasn’t a baseless concern. Evan’s blinking in and out might not have been because of him, but because of me.
“When that corner fell,” I said, “I lost sight of you. Empathically. I thought you were dead. I was convinced you were, but I couldn’t make myself tell the others.” Two kinds of terror frissoned through me, and everything started tumbling out. “What if I had told them? What if we’d given up on you? I can’t rely on an ability that fails like that. And I’m not sure why it did. If—”
“Daley.” Adam let go of my hand and stroked my hair. “It wasn’t you. It was me.”
Ian popped into my head, the way he looked when he broke up with me. I couldn’t help laughing at the incongruity. I cut it off fast, appalled. But Adam smiled at me, and it seemed to come much more easily to him than my own had. It soothed, even as he went blank. I understood, then, just before he explained it.
“I found the woman and was carrying her toward the front when the wall collapsed.” He hesitated. “No one has said . . .”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry. The last two people were killed in the second collapse. They’ve found six additional dead so far.” I assumed no one had told him because he already took too much personal responsibility. He couldn’t have prevented what happened.
He nodded, his aura turning blue-gray, sad. “I was afraid of that.”
My heart ached. “You were amazing, trying to save her. Just because I wanted you to. I didn’t want that, Adam, I didn’t want you to die saving someone else.”
“It’s a risk we all take,” he dismissed. “But, Daley, when the corner came down, and I knew I was going be crushed, I thought about you.”
I’d known that, even if I hadn’t wanted to admit it.
“So your aura disappeared because all your focus . . . shifted to me?” It sounded arrogant out loud.
But Adam nodded. His hand found mine again, and he wound our fingers together. “I was still thinking about you, feeling about you, when I lost consciousness.”
“So there was no remnant for me to detect.” I felt immensely better, but now had a fluttering in my abdomen I’d never associated with Adam before the last few days.
He watched me for a minute as I waited for him to elaborate on what those feelings had been. Questions filled my head. But it didn’t feel right to ask any of them. I wanted Adam to take the lead.
And suddenly, I was furious with myself. I was doing it again. Holding back. Not trusting. Not taking a risk that could lead to something amazing. I’d done it with Ian, who wouldn’t have found it so easy to give in to attraction to someone else if I’d given more of myself to him.
But . . . what should I say? It had barely been days since I started seeing Adam as anything more than a mentor and friend. So what if he’d been thinking of me when the rubble came down? That didn’t mean I was anything special. Maybe he was just afraid I’d blame myself and he was worried about me, as he would worry about any of us. There wasn’t a guy who cared more deeply about the people around him than Adam. What if I said something stupid and ruined everything? How could I stay at HQ if we couldn’t work together?
No, I had to wait, had to let him speak first. The air charged, and I held my breath.
And Trace, Kirby, and Summer walked in.