I found Steel just at the tail end of his beating up some goons of some kind. He had cornered two men in an alleyway. He didnâ€™t have any problem fighting both of them at once.
He was panting, completely out of breath. Iâ€™d never seen Steel winded before.
I hurried forward. I waved at him. â€œFinn!â€
He whirled. He saw me. He was next to me in two seconds, bounding across the distance between us. He clapped a hand over my mouth. â€œShut up,â€ he wheezed. â€œThereâ€™s a reason I wear a mask, you know.â€
I winced. â€œSorry,â€ I said. â€œI didnâ€™t meanâ€”â€
â€œHow did you figure it out, anyway?â€ He said. â€œItâ€™s not as if I look the same or anything. And even if I did, Iâ€™m wearing a mask.â€
I chewed on my lip. â€œI think it might be because of the mask. Wearing the mask makes me think that you have an identity to hide in the first place. So, I guess when I saw your smile, and it looked so similar, I put two and two together. But I have to admit I donâ€™t understand. How can you be Finnegan Flint? Youâ€™re right. You look completely different.â€
He sighed. â€œI donâ€™t know how it happens. Or why. Itâ€™s been this way since I was a kid. If I getâ€¦ excited, I change. Made for a hell of a childhood, let me tell you. Not a lot of foster families really want to give a home to a little silver monster.â€
I reached out to touch him. â€œIt isnâ€™t paint, is it?â€
He jerked back. â€œNo.â€
Iâ€™d only had a seconds of my fingers on his flesh, but it had sent a jolt of stimulation through me. He was warmâ€”no hot is the word. His skin gave against my touch, but it was also smooth and slick. He really did feel like living metal.
I had touched him. I looked away, feeling awkward. I needed to say something else to change the subject. â€œWhat was that guy? The one with the hood?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Iâ€™ve never seen him before.â€
Of course he didnâ€™t know. That had been obvious to anyone watching. I wasnâ€™t sure why Iâ€™d even said that.
Steel rubbed his forehead. â€œHe was so strong. I never saw anyone that strong before.â€
When he touched his face, I realized he was hurt. He was bleeding. Red blood against his shining skin. Without thinking about it, I reached for him again. â€œYouâ€™re hurt.â€ I fluttered my fingers over his cheek.
â€œItâ€™s nothing,â€ he said.
But he didnâ€™t shy away from my touch.
So we stayed that way, the two of us. My hand on his cheek, gazing into each otherâ€™s eyes. It suddenly felt as if there was a current in the air, something crackling between both of us.
Feeling emboldened, I flattened my hand against his jaw. I made my fingers curl around his skin, curving the way his face curved.
He closed his eyes.
And then he opened them. When he did, his gaze found mine, and it was so intense that it overwhelmed me. Something inside me leapt and twisted. I moved closer.
His face dipped down. His tongue darted out and ran over his lower lip.
The warmth of his skin seemed radiate around us. My body relaxed. I felt open and ready, warmth tingling into me, from the top of my head to the tips of my fingers.
He moved closer again. Now we were practically touching, and his mouth was mere centimeters from mine. I could feel his breath on my face.
My own breath caught in my throat.
His hand came up tentatively. He touched my cheekbone. He trailed his fingers down my neck.
It was my turn to shut my eyes.
And then his lips found mine. His hot mouth seared me, and the heat burned into my very soul. I pressed the length of my body against his hard, hot one, and I opened my mouth to him.
I hadnâ€™t been kissed in a very long time. But thisâ€¦ this was more than just a kiss. I had never felt anything quite like it. I felt like I was losing control of myself. I felt like I was burning up. Like someone had lit a fire on the inside of me, right behind my belly button. And the fire was growing and growing until it might consume everything. It was wonderful. It was terrifying.
And then it was over.
I couldnâ€™t feel him against me anymore. I opened my eyes. I saw that he had backed away.
He let out a shaking breath. â€œWe really shouldnâ€™tâ€¦â€
I touched my lips. I had expected to find them raw and burned. But they were just my lips, maybe a little tender. I was too stunned to know what to say.
Suddenly, in front of me, Steelâ€™s body started twisted and withering. He shrank, collapsing in on himself.
I took two steps back, horrified by what I was seeing. What was happening?
But then I realized that he was changing back into Finn. In a few seconds, the tall, imposing silver man was gone, replaced by the scrawny billionaire. Who was now barechested and wearing a pair of pants that were threatening to fall off his hips.
He grabbed the pants and tied them off, tied them tight, so they wouldnâ€™t fall down.
I stared at his bare chest. He was skinny, sure, but he had nicely define pecks and a flat stomach.
This was weird. This was really, really, really weird. First he kissed me like Iâ€™d never been kissed before. And then, just as I was reeling from that, he turned into a different person. I didnâ€™t know how I was going to handle that.
Finn scratched the back of his neck. â€œSorry. Itâ€™s just sometimes itâ€™s harder to talk about certain things when Iâ€™m like that. My logic is sort of short-circuited.â€
I didnâ€™t understand. I just gaze at him, slack jawed.
â€œWhat I mean is that certain kinds of logic seem to be lost on Steel.â€
I was still touching my lips. I put my hands down. â€œOkay.â€
â€œYou work for me,â€ he said. â€œIt wouldnâ€™t be appropriateâ€¦â€ He gestured himself and then at me. â€œThe two of us. We shouldnâ€™tâ€¦â€ He looked at the ground.
I looked down too. I realized that his feet were bare. Why had I never noticed before that Steel never wore any shoes?
â€œWait,â€ I said. â€œI do work for you? You arenâ€™t firing me?â€