The first order of business is wine, which I refuse for fear I might be pregnant. “Diet whatever you have,” I say, and Liam squeezes my leg, pulling my gaze to his, and there is awareness and approval there. And heat. Lots of heat. I think the idea of me being pregnant actually turns him on. But I think all men get a macho rise out of the idea of creating a baby on some level. That doesn’t mean they’re happy when the round belly and dirty diapers come around.

“So tell me about yourself, Amy,” Mike encourages.

“I’m a boring secretary,” I reply, automatically slipping into deflection mode. That’s who I am, deflection girl, and I am so ready to change that. “I’d much rather hear about you,” I continue. “Were you an investor in this spectacular building Liam designed?”

Derek laughs, drawing my gaze. “Glad you’re along for dinner, Amy.” He nods to Liam.

“Good call.”

Liam squeezes my leg. “I couldn’t agree more.”

“She certainly knows how to start things out with a bang,” Mike concedes, “but she makes my point. This building is spectacular. Let’s do it again a little bigger.”

“But you’re creating a place that is more than a workspace this time,” I argue. “You’re creating a small city, from what I understand.”

“This building is more than a workspace.”

“A pyramid—”

“Is Las Vegas fodder for tourists,” Mike finishes for me.

“Tell that to the Egyptians who spent years creating just one of the structures. Tell that to the many scientists and experts who spend year after year trying to figure out how it was even possible for an ancient society to build the structures. And do you really think Liam would build something that would be Vegas-like unless he was creating it for Vegas?”

Mike gives me a hard look, glances at Liam, and then back at me. “Okay Amy,” he conceeds witha smile, “you have a point. Considering the masterpiece of a building we are sitting inside at present, I cannot say I think Liam would do anything that wasn’t spectacular.”

I grin my approval and watress appears. Once she takes our orders, the conversation shifts to the stock market for what seems like forever. Even if I understood any of it, Liam’s hand stroking my leg isn’t allowing my brain to work, and no matter how many times I clamp down on his fingers, he sets them in motion again, each time tugging my dress a little higher up my thigh.

Dessert time finds Derek and Liam in deep conversation with the opposite side of the table, and Mike and I restart our conversation about buildings. Mike points out the many amazing buildings around the world that are record-breaking heights, or were, when first built. I quickly remind him that he is forgetting the many amazing structures that get attention for uniqueness, rather than height.

When Mike is without any true knowledge of the miracle of pyramids, I glance at Liam and Derek, confirming they are still distracted, before I dare to dare to be a tad more liberal about my knowledge of the subject. .

“I wonder,” I say, after we’ve talked a good hour in which Mike appears genuinely enthralled by the mysteries and the creation of the pyramids, “if you could incorporate a museum into the project your building and get non-profit funding to offset the expense.”

I lean back in my seat and suddenly realize that Derek and Liam are gone and I didn’t even know they left. “If you’re just a secretary,” Mike announces, “you’re a wasted commodity.”

“I, ah, thank you.” I stare at the empty seats, feeling a frisson of unease. “Excuse me if you will, Mike. I’m going to run to the ladies’ room.” I push to my feet and waste no time rushing away, scanning for Liam and Derek, and decide I’ll take a trip to the bathroom and use the privacy to call Liam.

I’m about to head into the bathroom when I hear Liam’s voice coming from a balcony just opposite where I’m standing. I move in that direction and stop dead when I hear, “Did you get the data off her computer?”

“All of it,” Derek says. “Including the camera.”

“So the camera feed is live?”

“Hot as a day in Texas. Are you sure you have her under control?”

“I can handle Amy. You just get me what I need.”

The word “Texas” rolls around in my head several times and hits me like a hard punch in the gut. I bolt, my heart is in my throat, adrenaline surging through me to the point where I’m shaking. I arrive at the elevator and punch the button a good ten times until it opens, and I all but lunge inside the car. I hold my breath, waiting for the doors to close, certain I will be discovered.

When finally the car is moving, I inhale deeply, willing my pulse to slow so I can think. This doesn’t mean Liam is the bad guy. It doesn’t. Maybe he dug into my past. Maybe he’s trying to help me. But why would he film me? Why? Why? Why? I was falling in love with him. I am in love with him. The idea that he and I were nothing but a facade cuts me deeply. I want to believe in him and us, but I do not dare risk trusting him. I have to survive first, and I need a plan.

Think, Amy. Think. You have to get out of here. Leave the state. Leave tonight. The elevator opens on the bottom floor and I know there are cameras everywhere, easily tracking my departure. I run through the empty lobby and ignore the security guard behind the desk, exiting the building and immediately cutting to my right. I pause momentarily to remove my shoes before running several blocks until I spot a cab and hail it.

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance