Reluctantly, I nod and accept it. “Hurry back.”
He pushes to his feet, stares down at me for several seconds and then grabs his bag and starts walking. Fighting the urge to chase after him, I dig my fingers into the blanket and wait for the sound I dread. The door opening and shutting with him on the outside.
I am alone again.
I wake up the next morning in an empty bed, with my cell phone on the pillow where I wish Liam’s head were resting. He didn’t call. He’d sent me a text message when he landed in New York that was nothing more than Are you okay? followed by walking into the hospital when I’d confirmed I was fine. I’d called him several times but he had not answered.
Sitting up, I scan the room that has oddly begun to feel like home, but today it is an empty shell and I have nothing to fill it with. It scares me how wrong I feel without Liam. How quickly I have become used to waking up to him. My phone beeps with a text and I quickly click on it.
This is why I didn’t want you here. There is a link and I click on it. The headline reads, Billionaire’s father arrested on DUI. The subtitle though is the worst part. Mother of two almost bleeds to death while young daughter watches. I read the details of what has been reported and my gut knots at the horrific article that all but calls it Liam’s fault for not controlling his father. I dial his number. He doesn’t answer. I text him. Please call me.
Walking into courthouse is the reply I receive.
He doesn’t want to talk to me. I feel it. He needed me last night and he feels like I wasn’t there for him. Maybe I have a little too much of my pops in me for both our good. My confident, talented man isn’t as confident as I thought. Somehow the vulnerability in him makes him more human, more special. But he doesn’t think so. He thinks of himself as damaged goods.
My hand settles on my belly and I hate the certainty that if I am pregnant I’ll have to leave Liam. He is too high profile, too newsworthy, and my child and I would therefore be in the spotlight, where we would become bigger targets than I already am. I see why Alex hated the press. Liam is media fodder whether he wants to be or not. I don’t want to leave him. I don’t want to run anymore. That means I cannot sit back and hope I am not found. I can’t go on trying to find answers in a scared and non-committed way.
Decision made to act and quickly, I throw off the blanket, rush through a shower, and then dress in jeans, a tank top, and Keds. I leave the hotel on a mission for answers, and make my now daily stop by the bank, where I disappointedly find nothing has changed. There is not more money in my account. The discovery serves as reinforcement for what I have to do next. If Liam were to suddenly be out of my life, I have to be able to survive and not end up dead.
I swing by the cell phone store, where I buy several disposable phones. A few blocks later, I stop at Evernight to find another “out to lunch” sign. I call Meg and she actually answers.
“Please tell me you’re okay. I tried to call you this morning. I was worried after that man of yours acted like an oaf.”
“I didn’t see the call.” In fact, I’m quite certain there wasn’t one, so this lie bothers me.
“I’m fine. Liam had a family emergency and he overreacted to Jared because of it.”
“Oh no. I hope everything is okay?”
I think better of telling her he’s out of town. “It’s under control. I’ve been trying to connect with you on the properties I was given to inspect. I really don’t think I have the right list. If I email you the list, can you confirm if I do or don’t?”
“Sure. Of course.” She gives me her direct email address. “You want to try happy hour again?”
No. “I’m tied up for the next few days. Maybe mid-week. I’ll email you the list today.”
“Yes. Okay.” She sounds awkward, but who wouldn’t after what she witnessed last night?
“You might want to call Jared. He was worried about you.”
“I don’t even have his number.”
“I’ll text it to you.”
“Thanks.” No thanks is more like it.
We end the call and she indeed sends me Jared’s number by text, which I delete. I have no intention of letting Jared know my cell number, and hopefully Meg won’t give it to him. As it is, the mystery blocked-number call has me uneasy.
I grab a few groceries that will allow me to keep my slim budget in check and hole up in the hotel room for a few days, intending to do nothing but research. I set up a workstation on the dining room table and then dial Liam. He doesn’t answer. I text him. No reply. I try not to think the worst, like he’s shutting me out intentionally, or that I’m still here in his rented room, out of some obligation he feels to protect me. It’s not hard to believe that could be true, with the news piece blaming him for his father’s sins. Guilt, no matter how unwarranted, has to be his enemy right now.
Settling into a chair at the dining room table, I prepare a notepad and have my computer on and ready. My first priority is to send Meg the property listings, then I break out the disposable phones. I begin making calls, pretending to be a reporter from a New York paper who is doing a story on my father’s life and death. No one can find records of the fire. This is illogical. There was a fire. I’m not crazy. I didn’t imagine that life-changing event.
Hours pass and I make call after call to museums, media outlets, records departments, and old connections I know are linked to my father. It seems I blink and the room is dim, the sunlight gone. I flip on lights and check my inbox and find nothing from Meg on the property listing I sent her. I call her and she replies by text. Working late. Will call you tomorrow.