“Is that why you didn’t text me?” His voice is softer now, his tone too intimate and yet still not intimate enough to satisfy the craving his voice creates in me. I will myself to say more, to say goodbye, but I can’t get the words out. I settle on, “I’m going to drop the phone by your hotel. I can’t accept it.”
“It’s a gift.”
“I pay my own way.”
“The money is nothing to me and everything to you.”
This time I do bristle. Money is nothing to me beyond basic survival. “Your money is nothing to me, Liam.”
“And while that makes me immensely happy in some way, Amy, it does not now, when we are talking about the phone. Money is just money. You are right. But your safety is another story. You need the phone.”
I think of the phone my handler gave me, and it bothers me he can track me. He can perhaps see my phone records. But won’t Liam be able to do the same? “I’ll get my own phone.”
“Use this one until you do.”
I open my mouth to object and he seems to read my thoughts. “Compromise, Amy.”
Compromise. And while I feel that is all I have done my entire life, it is strangely appealing with Liam, maybe because it implies there is a relationship between us that there isn’t.
Is there? “I can’t keep the phone.”
“At least keep it and use it until we can talk about it tonight.”
Tonight? “No. No there isn’t a tonight. I can’t see you anymore.”
Silence. One beat. Two. “There is that word again,” he observes, and then repeats, “We’ll talk tonight, Amy.”
“No, Liam. No.”
“You think you’re alone but you aren’t.”
“Because I have you now?”
“Yes. I know you don’t believe that, but you will. Soon, baby, you will.”
The idea of having him is bittersweet in so many ways I can’t tick them off in a year.
“You don’t know what I think or what is important to me.”
“I know enough. The rest I want to find out.”
“No.” But it sounds like yes. “I won’t be here tonight. I have plans.” Like locking myself in that cage of an apartment and going nowhere.
“I’m not going away, Amy. You do know that, don’t you?”
His voice is possessive, a rasp of sandpaper over my nerve endings followed by pure silk, and it does funny things to my stomach. “I don’t need a protector, Liam.”
“I see things differently.”
My spine locks into a steel bar. “I am not your—”
“Not yet. But I want you to be.”
I blink. What? He wants me to be what?
“I’ll call you when I finally get out of this meeting. It will probably be about six. One of the investors isn’t flying in until later today.”
I fight the urge to ask about the meeting and the investor. “Why are you doing this?” I whisper.
“You won’t like my answer.”
“How do you know what I like or don’t like?”
“I’ll see you tonight.” The line goes dead and I do not know why, but I need my answer. I call back. He answers immediately. “At least I have you using the phone.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because you are you, Amy. And I have to go, but text me if you need me.” He hangs up again.
I clutch the phone. He was right. I do not like his answer. My very existence is a lie and that means anything he sees in me, anything between us, is also a lie.
After buying the clothes I had on in the dressing room and wearing them out of the store, I have to stop by the realtor’s office before I go to the grocery store. The six-block walk takes me past rows of cute stores and eateries, and I find Evernight Legal Services nestled in between a coffee shop and a furniture store. I frown. I thought this was a real estate office, but it’s logical enough that a law office might handle all business affairs for someone.
I head inside the office, and I am pretty much pushed through the door by a gust of wind that jangles the bells attached to the entrance. In New York, I was pushed and shoved by people.
Here it’s Mother Nature, and according to the store clerk I’d asked, this is normal here.
Swiping at the hair in my face, I find myself standing in a small, homey-looking, compact office, and in front of a rich mahogany desk with a narrow hallway that looks like it leads to a few offices at most. “Welcome.” My gaze shifts to a gorgeous, twenty-twoish blonde bombshell wearing a hot pink dress and lipstick to match who appears in the doorway behind the desk. “Can I help you?”
“Amy Bensen.” The name rolls off my tongue far easier than it had with Jared. I settle my leather bag, now packed with my shopping haul, on the waiting room chair. “I’m here to drop off my signed lease.”
“Oh yes. Amy.” She smiles and offers me her hand. “Luke told me you were coming by.”
“My boss. He’s not in right now. I think he said there was a package for you.”
A package? I’m not sure what to make of that. “For me? Are you sure?”
“Well, I’m new so I could be wrong, but let me go look in the mail room. I’m almost certain we had something, though.” She heads down the hallway without me truly seeing her.
The package has to be from my handler. It would make sense. Maybe it contains a real explanation to what is happening and why I had to leave New York, I think hopefully, and my heart begins to thunder in my chest, adrenaline pouring through me. Answers. That’s all I want.