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For Facing the Truth

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“I love you.”

Her words hung in the air between them, with Liz unable to look away as she waited for his answer. His composure never wavered as he stared back.

Then she blinked, and he shifted in his seat, and the moment was gone.

“I love you too, Lizzie.” His smile was slightly off, a little too casual, as he reached for his dinner menu. “What do you think looks good tonight?”

“Red.”

She waited until he focused on her again. Funny, her nerves were gone. Instead of fidgeting, her hands tensed in her lap. Why did he always do this?

“I just told you that I love you. You’re asking me about the menu?”

“And I replied. I’m quite fond of you...you’re important to me.” There was a hint of a shrug in his shoulders before he leaned back into his chair. “Is there a problem?”

Liz sighed. He was going to make her spell it out. It was so frustrating, the way he tried to talk circles around what was actually happening--always with a charming smile.

God, she loved that about him.

With humor in her eyes, Liz shook her head. She leaned toward Red even as he leaned back.

“You know damn well what I mean, Raymond Reddington. I’m not saying that I care deeply for you, or however you want to edge around the truth. I’m saying that we’re not running for our lives anymore, and we’ve had time to breathe--and maybe we’ll never be safe, exactly, but we’re okay. So I’m tired of living this way, practically living with you, acting like we’re just colleagues in crime.”

She lowered her voice a little. “I can’t keep pretending I’m not attracted to you. The way you watch me over your wine glass, or you take my hand when we head into a room together, or you brush my arm with yours and it sends a chill down my spine. You’re so--”

“Elizabeth, stop.” His eyes had gone dark, focused. He wasn’t leaning back in his chair anymore.

“Why?”

“Because we came here for dinner.” He cleared his throat, but she realized that he didn’t look uncomfortable. He looked almost predatory, especially when his smile spread. “If you keep going, I won’t have much interest in it.”

Exhaling, Liz shook off the last of her fear. He wasn’t going to keep pretending, either. Thank god.

“Dinner is just a cover,” she pointed out. “We needed to be seen. Right?”

“Mm-hmm.” His lip twitched.

“Well, they’ve seen us. They’ve seen the high-society couple come to the swankiest restaurant in town, and flirt over drinks.” Liz batted her eyelashes at him, making him chuckle.

“Now, why don’t we let them see us leave before dinner?”

She laid her hand on the table, palm up. “I’m not very hungry right now.”