Oliver stops short, the name escaping his lips like a sigh, even with the voice modulator. “Canary…?” How can she be here, now, after the way things ended? Could she have cheated death twice?
Canary doesn’t respond, pulling him around the corner into an alley and against the brick wall in an instant. Her gloved hand covers his mouth before he can ask any more questions. It’s only then that he hears the fast-approaching sirens. Another moment, and he would have had to make one of his trademarked quick escapes—and the case would have been delayed again.
As the police cars pass without noticing them, Oliver studies her, blinking. Thick strands of blonde hair obscure her face, as well as the domino mask. He doesn’t know if it’s the shock of seeing her again, but his thoughts keep swirling back to how? And why?
Canary releases her hold on him and steps back. She pushes the hair out of her face and replaces her bo staff on her back. “Arrow.”
The voice is unaltered, but breathy and difficult to place. In the dark of the alleyway, this Canary could be Sara come back to life. She has the right stance, the same fiery determination in her eyes… but yet, there’s something different. Seeing her again—even if it is not her at all—brings back all the pain of her loss, as fresh and piercing as a new arrow wound.
She takes a step toward him. “I can’t believe it took me this long to see the truth.”
And there it is, something in the words that give the lie—this is not his Canary. He pushes her away with a well-placed heave, bringing his bow up to warn her off. But the arrow never touches the bow. Her bo staff spins around, and sends it flying out of his hands.
“You don’t need to fear me.” She gets close again, and a sliver of moonlight cuts through the shadows, illuminating the line of her jaw.
The realization comes crashing in on him. “Lau—?”
She stops him from uttering it aloud by covering his mouth with hers, grasping his jacket and pressing him backwards into the rough brick wall. His body responds immediately, with an instinct not far from the surface. They’ve done this so many times before, though never under these circumstances. He snakes one arm around her waist and pulls her in tighter to him, leather shifting against leather.
His mind races, separate from the needs of his body. Laurel? When did she take up her sister’s mantle? How long has she been training? And with whom?
But all of those questions fade before the most important one—how could she possibly have forgiven him?
She slides one hand up to cup his jaw, the other splays across his chest. She grinds her hips against him, drawing a moan from his throat. Then she pulls at the zipper and it’s a step too far. He pulls free of her kiss, fingers enclosing her wrist. “No,” he says, his voice oddly plaintive through the modulator.
“Please,” she insists, “I need to see.” After a moment, he relents and loosens his hold.
The zipper is only halfway down his chest before the scars are visible, before the Bratva tattoo peeks out. He waits, preternaturally still, for her reaction.
She looks back up into his face, searching. He doesn’t know what she is looking for. Remorse? Sorrow? Resignation? Then she turns her attention back to his exposed chest, bending down to kiss one of his scars, her tongue darting out to trace the puckered edges. He shivers, but lets her skim across, wary that at any moment she could turn and leave him—this time, forever. She leaves a wet trail of kisses upward, following the line of his neck, beneath the hood to the shell of his ear, then she murmurs, “Felicity, you can take the night off.”
Then he doesn’t care about any kind of forever—after all, since the Island, he’s never looked beyond the next night, the next case, just hoping to survive long enough to atone. He just needs his mouth on hers again, to lift her legs around his waist, to power them to the other side of the alley, where it’s her back this time that strikes the bricks, but not hard enough to wind her. She scrabbles unsuccessfully at his too-tight waistband, then palms his cock through his leather trousers.
He groans and skims one hand over the top of her breast. He can feel the nipple zing to life, even through layers of clothing. She unzips his jacket the rest of the way, peeling off her gloves to feel the hard planes of his muscles under her fingertips. He wants to do the same, to feel her taut, soft skin.
But her leathers conform perfectly to her body, and he can’t find purchase. So he rocks against her with his hips, his thumb rubbing circles over her clit with every thrust. She pulls at his pants as well, but no matter how strong she’s become, she can’t tear through leather. So they grind against each other, panting as the friction takes him to the edge and then over. He groans through his orgasm, pulling her heat tightly against him until the intensity subsides.
Laurel tilts his chin up and kisses him again, tenderly this time. Then she whispers, “Go get cleaned up.” She steps back, pulling her gloves on again with practiced ease. “I’ll finish the job. Then we’ll talk.” She even knows why he was out tonight?
He shakes his head with astonishment. “How do—?”
She covers his mouth with one finger and taps her ear with the other. “Felicity can walk me through it.”
Stunned, he watches her sprint off and out of sight. He doesn’t have to check to know the earpiece is long gone.