“Oh.” My throat thickens. Someone else had called me. “I received another ‘unknown’ call. Can you look up who it came from?”
“Unknown or blocked?”
I grab my phone and look. “Oh,” I say again. “Blocked. I guess I thought they were the same. Yours was blocked, too.”
“No, blocked means you intentionally make sure the person can’t find your contact info. I called from my cell so I blocked the call.”
“But no one but you has my number.” And Meg, but not before the first call in question.
“It’s probably overflow from whoever had the number before you.”
“Okay. Thank you for everything.” I sound robotic. I don’t feel it. I feel more like a wheel spinning out of control. Liam’s right. Something is off about what is happening around me. I pull up the internet on my phone and go into Gmail, watching the door for Liam, and checking my new inbox. Nothing. No messages from my “boss”, or anyone for that matter. Suddenly, that apartment I will never call mine by choice feels creepy. I’m all for going to Liam’s safe hotel. I’ll figure out what to do next when Liam goes to his meetings tomorrow.
I reach the exit and Liam holds the door for me, ending a call as he does, and just seeing him brings down my nerves a notch. We start walking toward both the hotel and my apartment.
“I found an acupuncturist to come to the hotel this afternoon and do a treatment,” he informs me.
“I didn’t even know they would work on Sundays, let alone do house calls.”
He winks. “I can be persuasive.”
“You have to stop spending money on me.”
“Stop thinking of everything like it’s money spent. I know that’s hard. I had to adjust at one point. This is who I am, Amy. You have to get used to it.”
Get used to it. I want the chance to get used to him, not the money.
“I say,” Liam continues, “we order room service, watch movies, and get na**d so I can be barbaric in approved territory. Actually I think I’ll call that side of me ‘the beast’. Let’s go set him free.”
“The beast?” I laugh, and I like that he is confident enough to laugh at himself, and try to find boundaries that work for us both. “The beast?”
“That’s right, baby. Let’s go get your things from your apartment.”
My fear of being attached to him and then losing him comes back with a force. Once I move to his hotel indefinitely, I’ll never want to leave. I stop dead in my tracks and turn to him.
“Liam.” We stand there in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing several people to walk around us.
“I like that side of you. I like you.”
He pulls me hard against him. “I’m insane for you, Amy. ‘Like’ lasted all of ten minutes.”
“I’ve been alone a long time,” I admit, and I embrace being honest. I let myself be vulnerable now for fear of being destroyed later. “I’m afraid of forgetting how to be without you.” I laugh nervously. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this in the middle of a busy sidewalk.”
He pulls me out of the crowd, settling my back against a brick wall, his big body shielding me from the outside. “How long, Amy?”
“Six years.” It’s out before I ever even process my documented story.
He curses and scrubs his face. “Since you were eighteen.”
I nod. “Yes.”
“Without anyone else to depend on?”
“Did you date?”
“I tried in college. My dorm mate’s legs ended up around my boyfriend's neck and I was done with the dating thing.”
“No wonder you have nightmares and cluster headaches.”
“They aren’t headaches.” I don’t mean to blurt it out, but it feels good to tell him. To feel safe enough to let him into a small part of what the battle I’m fighting. “That’s a lie I tell so people won’t think I’m some sort of crazy person. They’re blackouts and flashbacks.”
He kisses me. “That’s not a lie, baby. It’s survival.”
He’s right. Surviving is all I’ve lived for. Until now. Until him.
I don’t have to ask what he means. I’ve implied I lost my family all at once. I’ve promised myself I will lie to protect him. To ensure he survives, but not now. “I can’t talk about it without crumbling.” My eyes prickle, the pain of the past biting a path through my body, into my heart, deep into my soul. “I…I can’t.”
He wraps his arm around my neck and lowers his forehead to mine, and if I felt sheltered before, I feel completely protected now, like nothing exists but Liam. “I’ve had my share of dark days,” he confesses. “I get it. You don’t have to do or say anything you don’t want to.”
I surprise me—and probably him—by laughing, and he leans back to look at me. “I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to except,” I amend, “change my locks, go to the doctor, and let you spend money on me I don’t want you to spend.”
He smiles, and it is a devastatingly sexy smile. “Exactly. Except those things.” He motions me forward. “Let’s go get your things and go lock ourselves in the hotel room.”