Tension uncurls inside me, replaced by regret. Not only did he not have bad intentions, he had romantic ones I don’t know if I can accept without taking the risk that my identity would be scrutinized. “As much as I would like to go, my job is only certain for a few months. I need to look for something more long-term.”

His expression doesn’t change, but I sense a sharp shift in his mood, a heaviness in the air around us that wasn’t there seconds before. “The boss who provided you with an apartment.”

I bristle, something in his tone setting me on edge. “What does that mean, Liam?”

“It’s not safe to go to work for a guy you don’t know and who provides you with an apartment. Does he have access to it?”

My pulse races at the concern that mimics my own. “It’s my apartment. He just arranged it with a realtor. I have to pay for it.”

He studies me and the seconds feel eternal before he says, “There is something about the situation that feels wrong. I’m going to have him checked out.”

I assume he is talking about my boss not the realtor, but either way, this is exactly what I have feared. The more involved I am with Liam, the more he will dig into my life. “He’s just my boss. And only for a few months. That’s the point. I need to focus on finding another job that is more long-term. This is a bridge job.”

“That friend of mine, Derek. He runs a large real estate investment firm. I’ll introduce you and see if he might have anything you might be interested in.”

I am not about to apply for work with his friend, who then would have a human resources file on me, but I can’t say that. “Thank you.”

“And I’m going to pay your rent for a year tomorrow so you don’t have to stress about it anymore.”

I am stunned and angry all in one blow. And hurt. I feel again like a charity case bordering on becoming a tramp. “No. You are not.” I shove to my feet. “I’m going to get dressed and leave.”

I barely manage to slide out of my seat before he’s in front of me and his hand is on my arm, possessiveness in the action that I crave and reject. Feeling vulnerable, I lash out. “I guess I pay you for my rent by f**king you all night until we both can’t walk?” I can’t even believe I can talk like this. I can’t believe I let myself be in this situation.

Liam looks stunned. “Where did that come from, Amy?”

“I’m not some ‘kept woman’, Liam. You’ve got the wrong girl.”

“Kept woman? That’s crazy.” He softens his voice. “You have to know that’s not how I am or how we are.”

“How can I not feel like that? I like how I feel when I’m with you, Liam. I do. Or I did. Except right now. I don’t like how I feel right now. I don’t want your money, Liam.”

“It’s not about money…”

It’s not about the money. I hear nothing else. Spots form in front of my eyes, and a distant, unwelcome memory forces itself on me. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to block what I instinctively do not want to see, but it’s too late. The past refuses to be ignored and I am transported back to Texas, to a day when I am excitedly running up the stairs of my family home to share my acceptance letter from the University of Texas with my mother. I can see the blue jean skirt and red tank top I am wearing, and the smell of the honeysuckle bushes off the side of our huge wooden porch is ripe in my nostrils. I reach for the doorknob to open it and freeze at the sound of my mother shouting. It isn’t about the money. It was never about money.

“Amy.”

I blink and realize that I am on the bed with Liam sitting beside me, his hand on my leg, and I do not remember how I got here. “I, ah…”

“Blacked out,” he says. “You scared the f**k out of me.”

“I’m sorry. I…” I sit up and lean against the headboard. “I’m okay.” It’s not about the money. I hear my mother’s voice in my head again and drop my face to my hand. Desperately at times, I have tried to remember my mother’s voice, to hear my mother’s voice, to remember the way she used to run around the house singing to the radio. But not today, not in this partially formed memory some part of me seems to be clawing to get at while another blocks it from entry. Maybe it isn’t even real. Sometimes I don’t know what is or isn’t anymore. I do not know how I can want to know the truth and fear it this badly.

Liam’s hand settles on the side of my head and he presses his cheek to mine. “You’re okay, baby. I’m here and nothing is going to happen to you.” My hand goes to his, and I want to tell him it’s not me I’m worried about. It’s him. He strokes my hair and leans back, gently turning my face to his. “Can you walk to the car?”

The dull throb in my forehead is easing, but I must not be clearheaded because I truly have no idea what he’s talking about. “Car? Where are we going?”

“We need to go to the ER and make sure you’re okay.”

I stiffen and fight through the clawing sensation in my gut, the aftermath of hearing my mother’s voice. “No. No ER. It’s cluster headaches. They feel eternal but they only last a few minutes.”

“How often?”

“They went away several years ago and just started again.”

“Have you had an MRI?”

“Yes. I’m fine. They usually can’t explain why they happen to sufferers. They just happen. I’m supposed to watch for triggers like stress, change of environment, and what I eat. I’m sure it’s the move.”

Lisa Renee Jones Books | Romance Books | The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com